Amna is back: from LMP3 prototypes to FRECA
"The goal is to stick into motorsport for a long while and progress throughout my motorsport career" – from a LMP3 debut to a return to Formula Regional, Amna Al Qubaisi is making her European racing return, as she aims to rebuild momentum.
Two weeks ago, the ADAC Racing Weekend at Hockenheimring marked a special day for the Girls Only GITI Tire Motorsport by WS Racing project, as it welcomed Emirati racing star Amna Al Qubaisi to the team.
Amna raced in the highly competitive Italian F4 in 2018 and 2019 – before being forced to a hiatus in 2020, when the Covid pandemic hit and hampered her sponsorship opportunities in Europe. Al Qubaisi had just made history and won the F4 Trophy round at Yas Marina Circuit – a supporting event to the Abu Dhabi F1 GP – becoming the first Arab woman to win a single-seater race.
Al Qubaisi returned to racing in the winter of 2022, when she raced in the Formula Regional Asian Championship, making her debut in F3 Regional machinery alongside her sister Hamda and her father Khaled – an experienced GT racer.
In one of the most competitive fields in the history of the Asian-based championship, Amna claimed a top-ten finish at her home round in Abu Dhabi and claimed her first points.
While her European campaign did not materialize when a sponsorship deal fell through, Amna worked on her return to racing and she announced her comeback: the 22-year-old Emirati would join WS Racing in its all-female project Girls Only, in her first ever race at the wheel of a LMP3 prototype.
Starting her new adventure, Amna had a big task ahead: learning both the new car – the Norma M30 – and the track, the home of the former F1 German GP at Hockenheimring.
Amna tested the car in the days leading up to the STT race, when she had her first taste of sports car racing.
The race weekend, though, presented also an extra challenge, as rain disrupted the racing activities.
STT (Special Tourenwagen Trophy) is a German-based multi-class championship that features a wide variety of race cars, from prototypes, Class-1 DTM cars, GT3 vehicles, as well as touring cars.
Amna and her Norma M30 were entered in the D1-1A class, mixing up with drivers of the likes of Uwe Alzen (Audi R8 GT3 Evo), Jürgen Alzen (Ford GT Turbo), Rudolf Schoellhorn (Mercedes DTM C W204) and 16 more entries across the Division 2 and 3 categories.
Saturday's race went underway in damp conditions; after an initial Safety Car that neutralized the race in the first minutes, Al Qubaisi made her way up the order from seventh to fifth overall with some good passes – before ultimately clinch fourth place overall – and second in class – mid-way through the race.
While the nature of the series made it difficult to engage in many battles for position, Amna always kept it clean and was cautious in traffic, clearing the slower cars and then running consistent lap times and improving her personal best lap after lap while in clean air.
It was in fact the perfect opportunity to gain experience in a new car and, at the same time, getting back in a racing situation, as managing traffic and lapping consistently are going to be crucial skills in sports cars.
On Sunday, on the other hand, running time was cut short by the heavy downpour: after a Safety Car start, the race was soon red flagged for the adverse weather. A lengthy stop followed and the very few laps completed in the final minutes were all completed behind the Safety Car.
"My first experience was that the car felt very stable, almost like a single seater but with less downforce – and the car's a lot heavier", Al Qubaisi told us, explaining that her experience of single-seaters represented a good starting point to learn the LMP3 platform.
"[My formula experience] was extremely valuable, as it felt similar to a single seater, so jumping into the LMP3 car wasn’t really a massive difference."
"I was very happy with the pace, as Hockenheim was a new track for me and I was learning the car. Overall I’ve been trying to learn the track and later I got back into the rhythm and slowly developed from there" – she added.
Al Qubaisi's first appearance in the WS Racing's LMP3 Norma impressed the team, who has been building on its LMP3 programme throughout the season, after an initial crowdfunding campaign. Carrie Schreiner and Célia Martin previously tested the car.
"[It was] Amna's first LMP race and we are very impressed with the performance" – stated WS Racing, adding that Al Qubaisi is expected to join the team for more racing in 2023, potentially including the ADAC TotalEnergies 24h of Nürburgring.
"Hopefully there could be more next year" – Amna hinted.
But October brought even more good news for Al Qubaisi, who announced a return to formulas by joining the last two rounds of the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine with Prema Racing, in the #88 Tatuus T-318 usually driven by her sister Hamda.
Amna will in fact enter the upcoming weekend at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, and the season finale in two weeks' time at Mugello, as Hamda will not be able to attend due to university commitments.
With a close-to-40 car field, FRECA is widely considered as one of the most competitive junior categories in Europe. While it will not be an easy task for Amna to get back behind the wheel of the F3 Regional Tatuus after almost a year and jump in the deep end of such an environment, the experience is surely great news for the Emirati driver, who will have the chance to learn from the best team and get some crucial mileage ahead of her next steps in motorsport.
Whether she will venture in the world of sportscar and endurance racing or make a full return to single-seaters – maybe with a second campaign in the Asian Formula Regional series – track time is going to be the single most important factor; any opportunity is a step closer towards the goal of rebuilding momentum.
"The goal is to stick into motorsport for a long while and progress throughout my motorsport career" – Amna told us. And she now seems back on the right path.