Following her historic pole position at Hockenheim, Reema Juffali has continued her record-breaking season in GT World Challenge Europe by claiming her first ever podium finish in Valencia - and becoming the first Saudi woman to stand on a GT World Challenge podium.
Reema Juffali has continued her record-breaking season in GT World Challenge Europe by claiming her first ever podium finish in the championship. Following her historic pole position in the previous round at Hockenheim, Reema and teammate Fabian Schiller produced a brilliant recovery drive in race two at Valencia to claim a runner-up finish. In doing so, Juffali becomes the first Saudi woman to stand on a GT World Challenge podium, ending her maiden sprint cup season on a high.
Reflecting positively on the weekend, Reema commented “No words are needed after today. I’m speechless. We came into this weekend targeting a top-five finish, and after a tough qualifying, it all changed in the race."
"With one lap to go a bunch of cars bundled around us, we couldn’t tell where he was on track, and coming out of the last corner, he was ahead in second. It was unbelievable, he did a great drive, and the team did a great job as well. This podium is for them and will hopefully be the first of many.”
Reema arrived at Valencia on a high after showing exceptional pace at Hockenheim. The weekend began with mixed conditions during the first free practice session on Friday, with Reema and Fabian setting the eighth fastest time in the Bronze Cup class.
A fully dry pre-qualifying allowed both Theeba Motorsport drivers to gain valuable mileage, with the team placing third in the Bronze Cup class while setting a time fast enough for a top-15 position in the overall classification.
Conditions were set fair on Saturday with Fabian driving in the first of two qualifying sessions. Lap times were extremely close throughout the field with Schiller unfortunate to qualify tenth in the Bronze Cup class, despite being just over one second away from overall pole position. Nonetheless, the Theeba Motorsport pair remained determined to charge through the field in the first one-hour race.
Fabian took the start of race one and navigated an action-packed opening lap to gain four overall positions, while moving up to ninth in the Bronze Cup class. When racing resumed, the tight nature of Circuit Ricardo Tormo made overtaking challenging as Schiller fought hard to make up ground. After passing the Silver Cup class car of VSR driver Baptiste Moulin, the Theeba Motorsport driver was involved in a brilliant battle with Sebastien Baud and Jef Machiels as the three Bronze Cup drivers fought for seventh in class as the pit window opened.
On lap 20, Fabian handed over to Reema ninth in the Bronze Cup class, with Juffali aiming to push towards the top-5. Despite losing some time in the pit sequence, Reema’s lap times were very encouraging as she emerged ninth in class while matching the Silver Cup class drivers ahead of her. Hunting down the CLRT Porsche of Stephane Denoual, Juffali made the move on lap 27 and immediately pulled a substantial gap to her rival. In doing so, Reema set her personal best time and this was less than one tenth of a second away from Fabian’s earlier effort underlining her speed.
The Theeba Motorsport driver continued to set fast lap times as the one-hour race entered the closing stages, with Juffali pushing hard to bridge the gap ahead of her. Consistently lapping faster than her rivals ahead, Reema took the checkered flag eighth in the Bronze Cup class with her pace and consistency giving significant cause for optimism ahead of Sunday’s action.
Sunday morning brought challenging conditions for Reema’s qualifying session with a wet track ahead of the twenty-minute session. Juffali did well to ensure she made no mistakes and improve on her best lap time, ending the session ninth in the Bronze Cup class. Although missing out on the top positions, all of the Bronze Cup cars runners would start in close proximity meaning opportunities for improvement were in the offing.
Race two was held in dry conditions, with Reema making a smart getaway to move up two positions in the Bronze Cup class at the conclusion of lap one. With a safety car deployed, Juffali would have the chance to make up further places on the restart with the Theeba Motorsport driver gaining six overall positions from her starting spot as racing resumed.
Following an unscheduled pit stop for Bronze Cup class rival Ralf Bohn, Reema was up to sixth and quickly moved into the top-5 as she overtook Stephane Denoual on lap eight.
Juffali’s pace was once again strong as she minimised the time lost by faster drivers overtaking, while continuing to make inroads on fellow Mercedes competitor Eric Debard ahead.
After cutting the gap to just two tenths of a second, Reema lost out while attempting to overtake her rival and fell back to eighth in class as a second safety car period neutralised the race. The withdrawal of the safety car coincided with the opening of the pit window as Reema handed over to Fabian at the earliest possible opportunity.
A great pitstop from the Theeba Motorsport team allowed Schiller to gain one position on Christopher Zochling, before the Porsche driver re-took eighth position. Following an unscheduled stop for Bronze Cup class rival Jim Pla, Fabian was into seventh and held this position into the closing stages. A late full course yellow period then led to closer battles ahead of him, with the final eight minutes set to be action-packed.
Race two at Valencia marked the final event for the Bronze Cup class in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup and with the championship still up for grabs, positions were hotly contested. This led to fierce battles ahead, with Fabian’s smart driving and opportunistic overtaking leading to him moving ahead of Sebastien Baud and Zochling on consecutive laps.
By lap 35, Schiller was on the tail of Robert Renauer and a clean pass moved the Theeba Motorsport duo to fourth in the Bronze Cup class with one lap remaining. The best was still yet to come as Fabian gained four overall positions on the last lap, including two within class, to take the checkered flag second in the Bronze Cup class and claim the pairs best result of the season.
After race two, Fabian said “We’ve shown some good promise over the past few races, and after a difficult start to the weekend, it feels great to come away with a podium in Race 2. The track time we lost on Friday definitely put us on the back foot, but being able to reward the team with the performance they deserve is satisfying.”
Reema and Fabian achieved a well-deserved podium to close out their maiden season in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup. The duo have shown excellent speed across the short campaign and have been unfortunate not to consistently challenge for podium finishes. Reema has made significant improvements to both her speed and racecraft, further highlighted by her charging drive at the beginning of race two.
The Theeba Motorsport team will be aiming to close their season on a high in the final round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup at the Circuit de Barcelona on the weekend of 30th September/1st October.