x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Kawthar Bin Sulayem on the right track

This media officer dreams of being a racer, but practicality led her to the Range Rover.

Kawthar Bin Sulayem had to look for a bigger vehicle, as she could not drive all her sisters around in her Lexus IS200. She instantly fell in love with the Range Rover Sport.
Kawthar Bin Sulayem had to look for a bigger vehicle, as she could not drive all her sisters around in her Lexus IS200. She instantly fell in love with the Range Rover Sport.

Ever since the age of six, Kawthar Bin Sulayem has had a passion for speed and sports cars. Though she is immersed daily in motorsport as a media communications officer at Yas Marina Circuit, she has found the perfect compromise for high performance and being able to drive her family around. "I got a very good deal on my Range Rover Sport," she says of her Dh255,000 purchase in 2009. "I have always driven sports cars, but my sisters don't have cars and were driven around. But they always asked to drive with me but they could not fit into my small cars."

Bin Sulayem was reluctant to trade in her old Lexus IS200 for a bigger car, but she found an SUV up to the challenge of her requirements. "I instantly fell in love with the Range Rover Sport when I took it out for a test," Bin Sulayem recalls. "Being used to sports cars, it still had the power of one. It's bigger and I like the feeling of being above everyone. "It is a special car. It makes the driver feel different. Its interiors are not overly classy, but its performance that matters and it does represent the status of a person who likes power and performance."

Being used to driving cars that have a greater handling ability, Bin Sulayem says it took a while to adjust to its limitations and size, but priding herself on being a competent driver, she had the Sport tamed in no time. "When I first started to drive it, I found it hard to park. Driving higher up was different and, of course, its handling is not as responsive as a smaller car. But after a week I had it under control," she says.

Bin Sulayem has been into cars since she was 14, helping out at race events and with road safety initiatives, but her thrill of speed was discovered as a keen horse rider. Although her Sport's impressive 390hp still provides her with enough zip to keep her happy during the week, she still has a BMW M5 as backup for the weekend. Being familiar with cars from an early age helped her when she eventually took her driving test at 18. "I passed first time," she says. "I had the confidence and skills before I took my test. It was quite funny, because I do remember the driving instructor remarking to me during a lesson that I was never afraid of the roads."

Bin Sulayem hopes that the Yas Marina Circuit and the staging of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will encourage more Emiratis to take up motorsport. She also has desires of becoming the first female Emirati certified motorsport driver. "I have not been around Yas on my own yet, only as a passenger. It is an amazing circuit. Our CEO [Richard Cregan] is very supportive and encourages all staff to have advanced training and practise our techniques to become a race driver."

Bin Sulayem believes the only place for extreme speed is on the track rather than the street. "If people have a passion for racing they should come down on track days for a learning experience and we encourage people to speed in a safer environment rather than speeding on the streets," she says. "I think all drivers have a responsibility. Racing [on the street] is wrong and we have to look out for others.

"You cannot drive safely without good ethics. You can be confident in your skills and ability but not for others. The UAE should have safer streets but people need to start valuing their lives first." While Bin Sulayem ponders life on the track as a race driver, she does dream of adding another car to her collection. She still has not quite chosen her next dream car just yet, though the Chevrolet Corvette or Aston Martin Vantage are the front runners.

"I am more inclined towards the Aston. That is a nice car," she says, while considering importing one from the US for around Dh600,000. "The one I want will have full options and features. I am going over there this week, so I will have another look at it. "I am going on 26 this year and I think it is a point in my life where I want a special car and that is the Aston." snelmes@thenational.ae