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DUBAI: All Syrian racing driver Bushra Nasr knew, as she drove her beloved car far into the desert of Abu Dhabi, was that she would participate in a race. She knew there would be cameras, and whatever happened there, it could end up being broadcast somewhere in the area.

It was only later that Nasr, along with the nine other runners from across the region who had gathered there on an abandoned airstrip, learned that they were secretly participating in the first unscripted reality show in Arabic language from Netflix titled “The Fastest”. It was an opportunity that could potentially change each of their lives.

“Honestly, it was all a total surprise. I thought we could participate in just one race. Then every day they would come and tell us where we were going next, and without any warning we were going for different races and different challenges, all unique and different and different from anything we had done before, ”Nasr told Arab News. . “The whole experience was very exotic.

Bushra Nasr is a Syrian racing driver. (Provided)

For years, Nasr pursued his love of cars and racing in every spare moment, spending weekends steadily building his profile on the track, winning competitions and earning the respect of local drivers one by one. – even men who never imagined a young woman would be able to outdo them.

But his dreams weren’t just about winning races. They went much further. Nasr had a secret hope that fate might someday allow him to become the next Jeremy Clarkson, the former host of the famous “Top Gear” show, one day.

With “The Fastest,” she and her fellow contenders can finally have a way to achieve their goals, and the worlds of possibilities that the series’ potential success could open up for them are now on their minds. However, Nasr doesn’t just focus on herself. She focuses on all the young women who she hopes can be inspired by her success on the show, as well as her fellow competitors.

Contestants say they have made real friendships with each other since the competition ended. (Provided)

“The whole experience has been amazing for us as women, and it will show the world how many women feel passionate about the sport and hopefully help others feel motivated as well. I hope all of this can inspire young women to get more involved in racing, ”said Nasr.

While the competition was fierce throughout the first season of “The Fastest,” Nasr’s success in the series was a joy to watch for his competitors, including seasoned Saudi pilot Abzulaziz Al-Ya’eesh – another finalist.

“To be honest, the most memorable part of this show was seeing Bushra (succeeding) with her unique and empowering spirit. The show proved that racing doesn’t just depend on the car, it depends on the skills and expertise of the driver. Having such diverse men and women competing on an equal footing shows how the sport is developing in very different circles. (We are) people who have come from all over the Middle East to share our passion for cars, ”says Al-Ya’eesh.

For Saudi competitor Abzulaziz Fudhili, what excited him most when he found out that “The Fastest” would be available in 190 countries on the world’s largest streaming platform was that it could show to the world the true passion for racing in the region. (Provided)

As the Middle East’s reputation as a global hub of automotive culture grows year by year, it is more than just a home to some of the most impressive collections of supercars past and present. There are enthusiasts from all walks of life, all of whom have come down a very different, and often bumpy, path.

For Saudi competitor Abzulaziz Fudhili, what excited him most when he found out that “The Fastest” would be available in 190 countries on the world’s largest streaming platform was that it could show to the world the true passion for racing in the region. Fudhili is a perfect example. He borrowed money from almost everyone he knew to buy his car, and his exploits on the track allow him to pay them back.

“I couldn’t believe we would be seen everywhere. Not only were we going to race, but we could show the world that the motorsport scene in the Middle East is a force to be reckoned with, ”said Fudhili. “The world knows we love cars like no one else, but they’ve never seen the heart we carry behind the wheel.”

Nasr’s success in the series was a joy to watch for his competitors, including seasoned Saudi pilot Abzulaziz Al-Ya’eesh – another runner-up. (Provided)

“The Fastest” is however not an amateur competition. It involved some of the region’s best runners, like second-generation Kuwaiti runner Ali Makhseed, who only agreed to join the show once he was certain the competition would match anything he found in the first races in the region.

“I had doubts before joining the show,” says Makhseed. “I’m a professional driver and I thought it would just be a bunch of enthusiasts and fans, not people who really know street racing. But when I saw riders that I had known for years on this track, I was relieved and the competition they brought ignited me.

The show’s six-episode first season is hosted by Saudi YouTube star Tareq Al-Harbi (aka 6ar8o), whose comedic styles have garnered him over a million subscribers and nearly 10 million followers on Instagram.

For Al-Harbi, even though he didn’t run, hosting the show was a lifelong aspiration fulfilled. He could finally be a part of a show that he said was as good as anything any other country had done, and never felt like a knockoff – a show that was truly the region’s.

Kuwaiti runner Ali Makhseed only agreed to join the show once he was certain the competition would match anything he found in the region’s early races. (Provided)

“To have an Arabic language show that is so well done and full of suspense is a fantasy for Arab viewers,” Al-Harbi said. “You won’t be able to predict the winner until the last minute. I think people won’t be able to stop watching this show, and it makes me incredibly proud. “

Despite his enormous success, Al-Harbi considers “The Fastest” perhaps his greatest personal achievement.

“It has been an incredible journey for me,” he says. “I still remember how difficult it was when I started. I am delighted to reach this level. I also think it’s a big responsibility for me.

Competitors say they have made real friendships with each other since the end of the competition – exchanging racing tips, helping each other with their cars and reliving some of their favorite moments on the track against each other and the lessons they learned about themselves.

“Overall, the experience has been an education for me, and I would be happy to be a part of it again,” says Al-Ya’eesh. “I’m going to make sure I’m prepared with my car and learn more about each driver, so no one can beat me next time.”

Martin E. Berry