Eighteen-year-old Emirati racing driver Amna Al Qubaisi recently became the first Arab woman to test a Formula E car with the Envision Virgin Racing Team in the aftermath of the Ad Diriyah E-Prix. Having already claimed success in the UAE Rotax Max Challenge Series and currently racing in the highly competitive Italian Formula 4 championship, the future appears bright for her. wheels caught up with Amna to find out more about her aspirations on the circuit...
How did you get into motorsport?
I started motorsport because of my dad (Khaled Al Qubaisi — the first Emirati to score a podium finish at Le Mans). All he ever spoke about was racing, travelling around the world and meeting different drivers. He was a big influence on me and that sparked a desire to get involved. I started racing at the age of 14, which is quite late compared to my competitors, many of whom started when they were just six years old. I started karting in my home town of Abu Dhabi. Initially my dad was coaching me and then I joined the Daman Speed Academy. They offered me the best kart and the best coaches, and from that point I went on to win the UAE championship and started racing in Europe.
Despite the late start, I was able to gain experience and improve throughout my first karting season in the UAE and from competing in a few races in Europe. I won the UAE Rotax Max Challenge Series in 2017 and then needed to move up to the next level and, thanks to sponsorship from Kaspersky Lab, I was able to compete in Formula 4 in Italy with the best team — Prema Theodore Racing. Prior to my first F4 season I only had four test days and was up against experienced drivers, but I still managed to finish in the top 15 in many races, which had big grids of 37 cars.
Do you have a long-term goal in the sport?
Like any other young driver, I have a dream to reach Formula One but now, seeing Formula E, I recognise that this is the future. It’s different and it involves all the fans, so being part of this is also a goal. I like single-seaters because the racing is very close.
Fitness and nutrition are obviously key elements for race drivers in the current era. Do you have to devote a lot of energy and attention to these?
Yes, that’s the number one goal. You have to be fit because the cars are very heavy to steer, so you need a lot of arm and shoulder strength. You also need to strengthen the neck for the G forces that you experience in these cars. Eating healthy is also a big part of this. You need to be super-fit to ensure you can drive at 100 per cent for the duration of the race.
How often do you workout?
I currently work out two hours a day, five days a week, in the gym with my coach. I also spend a lot of time on the simulator to keep my skills sharp, as well as racing in shifter karts. This is all just to keep fit and stay in the rhythm.
There’s obviously a risk factor in motorsport. Does that ever play on your mind?
Actually, motorsport is now very safe. This is now the number one priority, and we are very well protected in the car with the six-point harness and HANS (Head and Neck Support) device. There are also barriers all around that absorb much of the impact if you go off the track and there are marshals to help you. It’s actually safer than driving on the road… much safer than driving on Shaikh Zayed Road!
Do you ever find it challenging to essentially be a motorsport pioneer for Emirati women?
It is hard at times, but there’s also my younger sister Hamda who is currently racing shifter karts and Inshallah she will progress to higher levels. Hopefully this will encourage women from not just the Emirates, but the whole Khaleej to come out and compete. At a global level, women are increasingly involved in motorsport, and they’ve just announced the W Series, which is an all-female single-seater category that uses Formula Three cars. This should result in more women progressing to the top levels of the sport.
What advice do you have for other Emirati girls and women would like to get into motorsport?
I’d say go for it. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young. Motorsport is for all ages and all genders. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Use that as motivation to push harder and you’ll eventually make it to the top.