Whenever a supercar pulls up to a hotel valet, mall entrance or even petrol station in the UAE, there tends to be a certain amount of attention given to the driver, as and when they alight from their vehicle.
You suspect that in such circumstances, Maha Mubarak Al Shamsi gets more than the average dose of onlookers. The young, stylishly dressed Emirati motoring enthusiast’s current drive of choice is one for connoisseurs: a Lamborghini Huracan Performante, the hard-core, racetrack-ready version of the Italian sports car.
The married mother of two, 28, who lives in Dubai, grew up in Al Ain and also spent time living in Abu Dhabi. She currently has three other cars: a McLaren 675LT, a Bentley Bentayga and a Bentley Mulsanne Speed.
“They all serve a purpose,” she says. “When I’m craving for that need for speed, I drive the 675LT, but that’s more of a track car. The Performante is my everyday car, but then if I have to do something with my kids, I use the Bentayga or the Mulsanne.”
From September 2 to 12, she will be breaking new ground when she joins the Supercars Club Arabia’s Andelosia rally tour through Europe, joining an exclusive guest-list of drivers from the Middle East. She will be the first Emirati woman to take part in the event and the only female competitor in this year’s rally.
She will be navigating the route in her Huracan Performante, starting from Lake Maggiore on the border between Italy and Switzerland, heading through the Alps into France, then Andorra and finally Spain to the event’s destination in Marbella.
“I’ll be driving with 24 men. It’s a 10-day rally, 3,200 kilometres,” she says. “They really want women to participate. They want me to take my 675LT, but in terms of comfort, I think I’ll take the Performante. There will be a lot of Aventadors, GT3s, LaFerrari… only supercars.”
Al Shamsi, however, thinks that her gender is largely unimportant when she is behind the wheel. “When you drive a car, the car does not discriminate,” she reasons. “The car does not know if it’s being driven by a man or a woman. Anyone can drive a supercar. It’s all about passion and how you handle a car. It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl.
“People are very curious. There is negativity involved, people asking me: ‘Are you sure you want to do this [event]?’ Even on my social media, but I just want to share my passion for cars. There’s nothing wrong with me participating in a rally. Why not? I want to open doors for other women. I get messages from other women asking me: ‘Maha, how do we do this, because we really want to be like you and share our love for cars.’”
Her automotive obsession began, she says, about the age of 13 – there was “something about the structure of the car. Growing up in Al Ain, I always wanted to drive cars at a very young age. I think I was 15 when my dad started teaching me. He took me to the [family] farm, driving a stick truck – a Toyota Tundra.”
From those inauspicious beginnings, she soon graduated to slightly faster rides: her first car was a Porsche.
“My dad got me a second-hand 911 Sport. I drove that for a year and a half, then I got myself a BMW M1, and then a Nissan GT-R.
She hasn’t been a fan of every car she has owned to date, however. “I used to have a [Rolls-Royce] Wraith – I sold it after eight months,” she admits. “The Wraith is a very powerful car, but it’s just really heavy. For me, it’s all about speed.”
She shares that passion with the Arabian Gazelles, the region’s first all-female luxury and supercar owners’ club, with whom she has been a member since February. “We’re trying to get more khaleeji women, because I’m the only Emirati member,” she says.
Another all-female organisation that she has been welcomed into this year is Lamborghini’s recently established worldwide Female Advisory Board. The idea behind the project is that women give input on future production cars and attend global events. She reveals there are plans for her to star in a Lambo commercial – “they really know how much I love cars”, she says.
A strong social-media presence probably helped pique Lamborghini’s interest, with 17,000 followers on her Instagram page, where she regularly posts pictures of herself with her cars – predominantly the Huracan Performante. Some images are in part of ongoing work and friendship with Dubai-based car photographer Pepper Yandell.
Outside of her love for cars, Al Shamsi is also a businesswoman, and is set to launch her fashion company House of MC in September.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, she still has unrealised motoring ambitions. Having honed her skills during track days at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, which she says is her favourite racetrack in the UAE, she now wants to take the next step.
“I’m actually training to be a professional racer,” she says. “I want to be a rally driver. There’s a lot of preparation now. I’ve contacted a lot of trainers who’re going to be training me, and people from Lamborghini as well, so I’ll be going to Italy.
“I spend hours every day before I sleep, just looking at cars – and I was looking at the [Lamborghini] Centenario,” she says with a smile. “That’s the car that I want to buy. There’s only 40 in the world. I want to own one.”
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