Aseel Al Hamad and women's motorsport
January 10 th 2020 - 08:12 [GMT + 3]
On the first edition of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia, 12 competitors are trying their luck, all of whom are men. However, Aseel Al Hamad, fiercely committed to promoting women’s sport, has taken her marks with a view to next year: her project is up and running and she has had her first rally-raid lesson with Isabelle Patissier.
In Saudi Arabia, women obtained the right to take their driving test on 24th June 2018. On that day, Aseel Al Hamad was symbolically invited to drive a Formula 1 race car, in the opening ceremony of the French Grand Prix on the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet. However, for the young lady, who had never driven on her country’s roads, it was not the first time she had been behind the wheel. Fascinated by racing cars since she was a child, she chose to get round the obstacle in order to experience her passion, supported by a family open to her achieving her dreams, by learning to drive on circuits in neighbouring countries, in Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates. Later, she took the competitive plunge in a single seater, in France and in Italy. Thereafter, over the last two years, there has been no shortage of initiatives. “We created a national championship in late 2018 and it didn’t take long for a dozen women to register,” delightedly exclaims the driver involved in promoting women’s sport on behalf of the Saudi federation and also within the FIA. “There is a genuine appetite for this sport because the country is changing and the women are ready”.
Aseel now has a fairly good grasp of track racing. However, she is a complete novice with regard to all-terrain completion. Yet, somewhere between Al Ula and Ha’il, she received a special lesson from a women driver who proved her worth a long time ago. Isabelle Patissier, with 9 Dakars under her belt including 16th place in 2011, was asked to come and give an initiation to a handful of Saudi women with a view to participation in the next edition. Following an initial session in the dunes, Aseel’s first impressions were unambiguous: “It was extraordinary,” enthused the pupil. “Taking the plunge in rally-raid driving is like learning a new language and I absolutely love it. I want to have another go tomorrow, then next week and do my utmost to be able to take part in the Dakar”. This is precisely the project with which she has been tasked by the federation, in collaboration with the Dakar organisers: “The goal is not only to register for the Dakar, but also to look out for new talents in order for four women to take part. It’s ambitious and we’ll all have to learn the ropes, but the Dakar is opening its doors to us”. We will see you in 2012, Aseel.