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Breaking Barriers: Reem Al Aboud and Formula E Set an FIA Single-Seater Benchmark

This January, Saudi racer Reem Al Aboud set a new acceleration benchmark for an FIA single-seater by reaching 0-60mph in 2.49 seconds in an ABB FIA Formula E GENBETA car. Ahead of International Women’s Day, we reflect on the implications of this achievement for motorsport.

Every Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile-sanctioned single-seater championship race begins with a standing start. The lights at the starting line flash on, and flash off. Idle cars roar to life, accelerating through the straight and into the waiting corner. 

How quickly these cars can accelerate depends on the series. F1 Academy goes from zero to 60mph in approximately 3.6 seconds. Formula 3 and Formula 2 manage in 3.1 and 2.9, respectively. Formula E’s GEN3 car takes 2.8. The current Formula 1 car takes 2.64. 

But F1’s 2.64 seconds is no longer the benchmark. Now, Formula E’s newly developed GENBETA car holds the title — and with a woman in the cockpit.

Last July, Formula E unveiled its GENBETA prototype at the ExCeL London. While testing the car, World Champion Jake Hughes clinched a top speed of 218.71km/h, smashing the Guinness World Record for fastest speed indoors by more than 50km/h. 

Having designated GENBETA as its development platform, Formula E sought to explore the model’s potential and performance further. The series set its sights on setting a second benchmark: the time an FIA single-seater takes to reach 0-60mph. 

Yet in chasing after the F1 benchmark, Formula E was not content with breaking only technological and physical barriers. So, to honour its founding commitment to social progress, it added motorsport’s longstanding gender barrier as yet another to break.

Accordingly, Formula E tapped 23-year-old Saudi female racer Reem Al Aboud to take the GENBETA’s driver seat. The 2023 Saudi Toyota Ladies Cup Champion has partnered with the series since 2018, when she became the first Saudi woman to test a Formula E car. 

Experienced in driving GEN2 and GEN3 cars  — plus breaking barriers across karting, hillclimbing and autocross series — Reem was Formula E’s choice for a 2024 FIA Girls on Track Ambassador. Naturally, she was their choice for the GENBETA test as well. 

And that choice certainly paid off. This January at Dirab Motor Park, Reem’s GENBETA car achieved 0-60mph in 2.49 seconds — besting F1’s by 0.15 seconds. 

Of course, the technological aspect of the January test is remarkable. Behind GENBETA’s new benchmark is its front powertrain kit, which previous Formula E models (and other road electric vehicles) only use for energy harvesting. However, GENBETA also turns on this kit for greater traction during acceleration, using it to produce 536 horsepower that will launch the car into action. Instant torque allows for instant acceleration and thus a 2.49-second 0-60mph time.

What’s also remarkable is that a woman is the face of this test. 

After all, motorsport’s gender barrier is cyclical. Doubt that female drivers can perform on par with their male counterparts dominates the sport. Doubtful investors shy away from funding young female drivers. Underfunded female drivers can’t enter, remain and progress through racing series. Series sorely lack female representation — when representation is what validates the reality that women can indeed perform. That lack of validation perpetuates the doubt about female drivers. And so, the cycle continues.  

But Reem’s benchmark throws a wrench into this cycle by tackling the doubt head-on. She reaffirms that when women are given the time on track they are so often denied, they can excel. That when women are included in the conversation, they can contribute to the technological developments that push this sport forward. That when this sport values women, women can bring equal — if not more — value to the sport in turn. 

As the face of this test, Reem represents the generations of women who have been denied from motorsport on the basis of their gender. Of women who challenge prejudice in cockpits, paddocks and audiences. Of girls who see Reem on their screens and wonder if they, too, can wrestle state-of-the-art cars at inhuman speeds. 

Reem breaks the cycle by showing them that they can, and that they should. 

In doing so, she and Formula E bring motorsport a step closer to a new era. One where women are no longer the exception, but the standard. 

All images are credited to ABB FIA Formula E.

1 comentario

This achievement also highlights the need to move beyond outdated stereotypes and biases, and to embrace the true potential of women in motorsports, regardless of their iq test scores.

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