If you hadn’t heard of UAE motorsport sensation Amna Al Qubaisi yet, then expect to read plenty more of her as the Emirati continues on making big strides in her racing journey.
At just 17, the Abu Dhabi schoolgirl is already making an impact behind the wheel, becoming the first Emirati girl to win the UAE senior Rotax Max Challenge last month.
In 2018, she will be the first Arab woman to test herself in Formula Four, when she lines up for Prema team in Europe.
Al Qubaisi speaks to Sport360 on her Formula Four ambitions, how it was to win the Rotax Max Challenge title and how she wants more Arab women to follow in her footsteps.
You are set to make history by becoming the first Arab female to race in Formula Four in Europe in the 2018 season. How does it feel to write your name in the record books?
It feels really amazing to reach this far. If I look back a year ago, I never imagined myself to be here. It was a big shock for me and I’m confident and happy that I’ll do very well next year.
What do you think your challenges will be in that championship?
It will be driving on tracks that I’ve never driven on and I might be the only girl and probably the youngest too so that’s the challenges for me.
It’s been a memorable season for you, becoming the first Emirati girl to win the karting UAE senior Rotax Max Challenge. How do you look back at this?
I go back to the times where I first began karting where I didn’t have much experience and was mostly at the back of the grid. I didn’t even know what the set-up of a kart meant and now seeing myself progress and gain the experience in the Daman Speed Academy is incredible.
Winning the Rotax is something I’m really proud of and it’s not just a big achievement, I’ve also created history and accomplished the fact that I’ll be representing the UAE in the World Finals in November.
For sure, it was difficult and I was racing against the most experienced and fittest drivers. For me, being the only girl on the grid, my experience of racing in Europe helped me stay focus and become very fit. I have become capable and potential to beat them.
It’s very rare to see Emirati and Arab women in sport. What do you think is the barriers in stopping Emirati women?
When I was in karting last season, it wasn’t just about wanting to prove that women can race but also send out a message that Arab women can do something in sport. I want to change how people think that Arabs are not capable to doing sports and I want to change.
When I’m in Europe, they’ve never seen a Arab woman drive in any competition and it’s very rare for them but I feel with my achievements, I can help females by training them and giving them tips and advice whether it’s karting or single-seating.
How did your interest in motorsport begin?
It began very late and I was just 13 years old when I joined Daman Speed Academy. Before that, I was doing gymnastics because it was something different in the UAE. But then, I grew bored of it and competitions was just once a year.
I then started watching my dad (Khaled, DSA founder and Abu Dhabi racing managing director) racing and he travelled around the world, telling me about the different tracks and cars he drove on. It was from then, I got more interested in motorsport.
Since joining Daman Speed Academy, how have they helped you in your progress?
They’ve done a lot. They helped me grow and gave me everything to succeed whether that’s karts, coaching or preparation. I’ve also realized the importance of nutrition as it’s important for any athlete. If I don’t eat healthy, I will feel really weak during the race.
What are the steps taken to prepare for races?
I sleep very early the night before and try and get 10 hours maximum of sleep. I will also eat a lot of paste so I have the carbs for the next day. Before going to sleep, I’ll also check my GoPro and rememorise the track and the lines so that it stays in my head when I sleep.
Who is your favourite role model and why?
It’s of course my dad (Khaled). He’s the main reason on why I started racing. He inspired me through all his races and made history by becoming the first Emirati to win two podiums in a row at Le Mans and winning second position at the World Endurance Championship.
Who is your favourite racing driver and which motorsport championships do you follow?
It has to be Max Verstappen because he’s the youngest on the F1 grid and no-one expected him to do so well. He’s an example of those who made it big coming from karting to Formula One. Out of all the competition, I follow MotoGP but mainly Formula One, GP2, and GP4.
How you split your time between school and motorsport?
My parents are very clear when it comes to studying and if I miss homework or don’t get good grades on my test, I may have to miss a race meaning I’ll have to focus on my studies before I go back to racing. I’ve had good grades this year and am graduating so it’s pleasing to have done well in karting and studies.