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Egypt's first female rally driver talks speed and challenging stereotypes


Yara Shalaby is no stranger to the desert terrain. As Egypt’s first female rally driver, she has always been drawn to the desert.

But Shalaby’s career got off to a bumpy start.

The first steps of Yara Shalaby in competition have yet been catastrophic. Far from discouraged, the ridicule of her opponents have instead been a source of motivation.

Of course everyone told me: you're a girl, you can't race, what could you possibly achieve? Can girls even drive on asphalt to race in a desert?

“Of course everyone told me: you’re a girl, you can’t race, what could you possibly achieve? Can girls even drive on asphalt to race in a desert? All the depressing people around me were happy because we got lost in the desert and we didn’t even make it to the finishing line. But the second time, I fixed all of the problems from the first race; I prepared my car and trained a lot with my co-pilot, and we ended up doing really well, we came in second,” Shalaby said.

Shalaby’s rise faced some criticism as more was asked of her in terms of output.

“My family asked me why do you want to race? You could just have fun and play around with the car with your friends. Because we know that racing has its risks and that I would be risking my life and car, so what’s the point? They didn’t really agree with the idea in the first, second or third races, but when they saw that I was starting to achieve good standings, attend competitions abroad, and get really good exposure with interviews on television, they changed their minds. They now support me and my father even looks for sponsors for me,” she added.

The 34 year old also balances being a professional rally driver, alongside motherhood and working as an IT specialist in a bank.

Keen for other women to follow her in her rally driving tracks, Shalaby set up the Middle East’s first women’s rally team, the Gazelle Rally, which has seven drivers and has secured sponsorship for 2016.


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