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TRAILBLAZERS Al-Hamad, who followed her childhood passion for driving, can now do so freely in Saudi Arabia The Reem racetrack – a dusty black ribbon of asphalt west of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – has probably witnessed a scene like this a thousand times before. A sleek sports car glints in the midday sun as it tears through the bends, tires screeching as an ecstatic driver pushes them to the limit. However, this flowing fusion of car, driver and track is anything but ordinary. At the wheel of the Ultra Blue Jaguar F-TYPE Coupé is race driver, entrepreneur, interior designer, engineer and motorsport enthusiast Aseel Al-Hamad. As she roars into the pitlane, Al-Hamad symbolizes the country’s first steps toward a future that, even a year previously, seemed all but inconceivable. On the June 24th, 2018, Saudi Arabia lifted its national restrictions on women driving, just nine months after King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s royal decree. To mark the historic event, Al-Hamad teamed up with Jaguar to celebrate the long awaited cultural shift in her country with a celebratory lap in the Jaguar F-TYPE on home soil. The lap is part of the first World Driving Day, the annual highlight of Jaguar’s collaboration with more than 40 universities and academic institutions around the world on future mobility solutions. Commemorating the lifting of the ban, the event will soon expand to include partner universities in Saudi Arabia, too. In a sense, this day was always coming for Al-Hamad. Even if she 56 THE JAGUAR

“BEING IN A CAR TO EXPERIENCE ADVENTURES ON OUR OWN WILL BE INCREDIBLE” grew up in a country that, until now, was the only one in the world to ban women from driving its streets. “My passion for driving started as a little girl,” grins Al-Hamad. “I always preferred playing with my brother’s toy cars. Over the years my family always encouraged me to follow my dreams as a driver.” After graduating from Prince Sultan University with a degree in interior design, Al-Hamad founded IDegree Design, a one-stop engineering and design firm specializing in high-end residential and commercial interiors. As her business grew, her peers took notice; an appointment to the prestigious Saudi Council of Engineers followed. Meanwhile, motorsport became a growing interest, which she channeled into writing, track days, workshops and professional racing courses, soon profiling her as one of Saudi Arabia’s first few female car fanatics. She famously became the first woman to import a Ferrari into Saudi Arabia. Eventually, she was recognized as the country’s prime proponent of women in motorsport as she became the first female member of both the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and the Women in Motorsport Commission set up by Formula One’s governing body, the FIA. Once at the world motorsport’s center stage, Al-Hamad says, she realized she had found her calling. “It was and is my ambition and desire to become a role model for future generations of women,” she says. “I want them to identify their passion for racing and start practicing their passion at an early age. I hope this will inspire new generations of women around the world to enjoy the excitement of driving and being behind the wheel.” With millions of Saudi women now able to drive (and indeed, race), Al-Hamad says the impact on life in the Saudi kingdom will be immediate and profound. “Three things will fundamentally change from now on,” she says. “We as women in Saudi Arabia will have a new sense of responsibility, which is extremely important. Second, it impacts our independence. I am looking forward to being able to have my own schedule in my life and business and not be reliant on others. “And third, it will create further opportunity for spending quality time with my loved ones. I think people take for granted how important enjoying and creating special moments and memories are. Being in a car to experience new adventures on our own will be incredible.” Al-Hamad says finding herself in the midst of a seismic shift like this, in the heart of her home country, will stay with her for the rest of her life. “All Saudi women will remember June 24th as a historic day,” she smiles, visibly moved. “I have waited all my life for this, but I always believed one day it would happen. It makes me so proud. And, it reminds me to never give up on your dreams.” Back on the track, the F-TYPE’s distinctive roar is dialed back to a contented sizzle as it cools down. A sense of achievement and pride hangs in the air and blends with the chatter from track and media crews as Al-Hamad calls it a day. On the alphalt behind her, the tire marks still look fresh: bold symbols of the exciting journey that millions of women like her are now on. To watch Aseel in action, search for ‘World Driving Day’ on Jaguar’s YouTube channel THE JAGUAR 57





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