Amna Al Qubaisi

An all-terrain Porsche sports car and a local motorsport star cross the desert in search of the Liwa Tal Moreeb Festival.

Amna Al Qubaisi, the young racing talent familiar to the UAE’s motorsports community, sat behind the wheel of Porsche‘s 911 Dakar for a fresh and exciting challenge. Having won two races in the F1 Academy championship last year, her meteoric rise in what is a male-dominated sport is incredibly impressive. In the Porsche, however, Amna Al Qubaisi was in the dunes, far from her natural habitat of the racing circuit.

Amna Al Qubaisi
Image courtesy Porsche Newsroom

One might wince at the thought of a Porsche sports car in the desert, but the 911 Dakar was right at home in that setting. Offering a remarkable 191 millimetres of ground clearance at speeds of up to 150 km/h, the iconic sports car was the perfect partner for Amna Al Qubaisi, thanks to its stiffer engine mounts from the 911 GT3, rear-axle steering, and PDCC active roll stabilisation. Indeed, it made the hitherto SUV-dominated land its own with its unprecedented athleticism.

In its Roughroads livery, the 911 Dakar cuts a conspicuous figure through the streets of Abu Dhabi, where Amna Al Qubaisi’s journey begins in the early hours before dawn. Liwa is some 220 kilometres south, via fast paved roads and, later, much less hospitable terrain, all of which the Dakar takes in its stride.

“Driving the 911 Dakar on the road is very smooth, fast, and stable. With the steering, it’s reactive, but also has a good balance. But on the sand dunes, it was so much fun. You can go all out and not worry about losing control. The car is so stable. This was my first drive of the 911 Dakar, and first time driving a Porsche to the Liwa Festival. The experience went way beyond my expectations!”

– Amna Al Qubaisi

It is perhaps poetic that the 23-year-old racing driver feels at one with the 911 Dakar, with her family’s connection to the Porsche brand well-documented. Indeed, the first time she ever watched a motor race was when her father competed in the Porsche Carrera Cup. But these days, it is she who is making the headlines, bringing renewed interest in racing to a new generation of young people across the region.

Desert traditions with Amna Al Qubaisi and the 911 Dakar

The Middle East is a community full of driving enthusiasts, who see it as a way of life. At the heart of this tradition is the annual Liwa Tal Moreeb Festival, located in the shadow of the enormous Moreeb Dune in the region’s southerly Empty Quarter desert. All types of high-performance driving are on display at Liwa, a week-long celebration that sees drag races, motor cross, classic car competitions and drifting sharing the same space, supported by the town’s excellent cuisine and local cafés selling gallons of gahwa or Arabic coffee.

En route to Liwa, Amna Al Qubaisi made a slight detour, driving up to an Emirati home where she is greeted warmly. This reception was symbolic of the recognition she has been getting in the region thanks to her incredible achievements. Her accomplishments have made her an inspirational figure for women in motorsport around the world.

Predictably, when Al Qubaisi completed her journey and parked up beneath the towering Moreeb Dune, the 911 Dakar drew a large crowd of onlookers. As the sun set behind the dunes and silhouetting rows of rugged and highly modified off-road vehicles took their place, the 911 Dakar and its driver continued to stand out, a nod to the sign of the times.

Pranav is a writer and editor who always strives to weave stories and narratives with his words. He has written for multiple publications across a wide variety of beats. A keen opinion enthusiast, Pranav pursues the art of writing balanced pieces that explore every available POV before making his conclusion. In his free time, Pranav rages at his favourite sports teams and practices impressions.