Irish Ladies Team complete Rally Jameel 2024

Patricia Denning and Gretchen Swinburne.

The third edition of Rally Jameel the first navigation off-road rally for women in Saudi Arabia and the region took place the week of the 4th March. Rally Jameel is an off Road Navigational Rally, in which competitors use state of the art navigational equipment to follow a defined route of 1600 km in the beautiful deserts of Saudi Arabia. The team that accumulate the most points win the Rally.

In 2017 King Salman –Al Saud issued a statement recognizing women’s right to drive cars in Saudi Arabia which was implemented in June 2018.  His vision was to empower Women in all aspects of sports including motorsport and this is how Rally Jameel became a reality. 

This year the event saw a very competitive and multinational entry list of 55 teams from 38 different countries including previous award winners. Motorsport Ireland were represented by driver Paticia Denning (Garda Siochana Motor Club) and co-driver Gretchen Swinburne (Monaghan Motor Club). This was the first time that Ireland had representation at this event. The Irish team  finished 2nd in class and 36th  overall which was a fantastic achievement as this was a 4 day endurance event covering 300-400k each day through  the desert terrain of Saudia Arabia, starting in Hail, to picturesque Al-Ula, to Umluj, then Yanbu, and finally the end of the event in Jeddah on the Red Sea.
Patricia Denning driver thoroughly embracing the challenge. “The soft sand and the hot temperatures were extremely challenging. There was also a constant need to watch out for sharp stones and camel grass and we successfully managed to avoid getting any punctures.
One of the many high points was driving on parts of the famous Dakar Rally Stages and the scenery was breath taking. Saudi Arabia is a beautiful country.
The sense of camaraderie amongst the entire field was incredible with numerous friendships formed. It was a fitting tribute to finish in Jeddah on International Women’s day and we thank everyone who made our journey possible”. For Co driver Gretchen this took her navigating skills to a new level.  “Rally Jameel provided us with different challenges and terrain each day, including open desert, dunes, stones and dirt track. As a team we overcame any challenges we faced, such as mechanical issues on day 3 with the engine overheating and trying to control and maintain speeds to improve our average speed section which was resulting in penalties..” 

“..A high point for me as a navigator was validating over 200 waypoints in 1600km. Rally Jameel is not like home, you are in the middle of nowhere, roads are not defined, there are no road signs, you need to stay focused throughout and work together to ensure you don’t get lost. Also to see the finish line on the fourth and final day, was an achievement in itself.” 
Both ladies arrived back to Ireland on Saturday 9th March. Patricia in time to attend the MI Women in Motorsport event in Portlaoise and Gretchen just in time to compete at the Monaghan Night Navigation achieving 2nd in class and 8th overall, a great way to end an amazing journey.  Motorsport Ireland would like to thank  the Saudia Arabia Automobile and Motorcycle Federation for their invitation for an Irish team to participate.  
Patricia and Gretchen would like to acknowledge also Motorsport Ireland and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy for their assistance  with pre event logistics and preparation for the event.
“Great things never come from comfort zones, to achieve involves both opportunity and preparation”

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