Autodromo do Estoril played host to the first round of the 2022 GT Open championship, as Reema Juffali and Adam Christodoulou brought the #18 Theeba Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3 EVO tacross the finish line with two class victories and an overall podium.
Reema Juffali, Saudi Arabia's first female racing driver, entered her first race in GT Open Championship with Theeba Motorsport and had a wonderful weekend in Portugal.
Juffali started her racing career in 2018, in the TRD 86 Cup, and participated in the British F4 Championship the year after – often finishing in the points. In 2021, she competed with Douglas Motorsport in the newly-rebranded GB3 Championship famously finished fourth at Silverstone.
She teamed up with Adam Christodolou, British Formula Renault winner in 2008, at the wheel of the #18 Mercedes AMG GT3 EVO – in what will be her first full season in GT3 racing. She in fact made her switch to GT earlier this year and claimed an outstanding second place at the 24 Hours of Dubai, in her first GT3 race.
At Estoril, Reema qualified 5th in Pro-Am class, 12th overall, during the first qualifying session of the season and did an incredible job at the green light.
After a hectic start of race 1, where she managed to avoid an enormous crash that saw the #8 Lamborghini having a contact with the #911 Getspeed Performance's Mercedes that impacted into the wall. She was able to take evasive action and continue the race, while Stephen Earle (Kessel Racing) and Stanislaw Jedlinski (Olimp Racing) couldn't do so, as they both didn't see the collision and collected the Lamborghini, causing a red flag.
After 30 minutes in the pit lane waiting for the race to start again, Juffali resumed the race in 10th position and held it until the pit stop, when she handed the car to her teammate Christodoulou. After some challenging fights, he managed to make up eight positions and ended up first place in the Pro-Am class and fourth place overall.
Reema's first race in GT Open couldn't have be more memorable, taking class victory: “Coming into this weekend, I wasn’t sure as to how my pace would fare against the other Pro-Am drivers", she commented.
"I tried to keep it consistent and clean so I could get the car back in one piece for Adam. He did a fantastic job and this is the best way we could start the season. Overall, I’m very happy and from here I want to improve on my pace and achieve this result all over again. Hopefully this is a sign of what’s to come.” she said.
Race 2 saw the #18 Mercedes starting from third place, after an amazing qualifying session by Adam Christodolou who was actually able to maintain the position after the lights went out. Reema got behind the wheel with 24 minutes left of the clock and the team's brillinat work gained them enough time to rejoin from second place overall, first in class.
Even though she had the pace to move into first position, she faced some traffic and a little mistake, with only a few minutes to go, prevented her to overtake the #73 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 of Roman Ziemian. After a mistake from the #73, she was able to finally overtake him, securing victory in Pro-Am class, and stepping on the overall podium.
“What an epic race! It had every high and every low, the pressure was immense and I’m extremely happy with the end result." – Reema said.
"When I was battling for the Pro-Am lead, I had to avoid a slower car in front of me and when I went into the gravel, my heart stopped. I thought that our race was over. When I rejoined we were still second in class, I could see the leading car and I drove with laser focus."
"On the final lap, Roman [Ziemian] spun in front of me which was definitely too close for comfort but I was able to avoid him to take the win and finish on the overall podium. It’s been a big weekend for me and I feel like I have progressed throughout. I’m already looking forward to Paul Ricard and I feel like it’s going to be a good season!” Reema stated after the race.
Her performance during the week was absolutely flawless and kept getting better and better. We can't wait to see what she has in store for the next race in Le Castellet, France, on 21-22 May.