Exclusive Interview with Egyptian Race Car Driver Ramy Serry

By Mohamed Essam Abd Al-Razeq (Translated)

Photo by Marwan Abdel-Moniem

Q: A lot of people know Ramy Serry the race car driver who succeeded in Egypt and the Arab region at large; however, no one how you reached that success; so, how did it happen?

A: It all started with loving cars just like any kid and playing some games with my family; my parents would ask me about types of cars when we were driving around the streets while living in Saudi Arabia. It all started rather simply then it evolved with video games and I felt that is possible to do in reality the things I do in the games.

Of course, at first I doubted if the physics of the games would be identical to those in reality and so I wanted to try it out and when I did, it was exactly the same.

Q: How was this experience? When was the first time you drove a car?

A: I was 13 years old and I was in a deserted area with my father’s car; he was with me, that was the first time I go through the experience. If the issue was one in which my family understood this matter from the beginning, I would have started driving at age 7. But, they did not know that I wanted to be a race car driver.

Q: A lot of people fear for their children getting involved into risky sports like car racing; what do you think of this and did it affect you?

A: That was not necessarily the case with me; my family is full of athletes; so, the matter was not one about risk taking. It was actually about how to deal with the idea of race car driving because it was not a widespread sport in Egypt; so, there was always a question about what to do if I wanted to pursue it. My family did not have much of an answer for this question especially that during that time when I was about 18 years old, the Internet had just started in Egypt and my family had no idea about how to help me.

Q: Did you have any other hobbies?

A: Yes, I was a swimming champion and I also played tennis well among other things; swimming though was the only one that was taken seriously because tennis was just a hobby as well as basketball and football as a goal keeper. However, none of these hobbies were treated as having potential to turn into a profession.

Q: When did you start hearing about races in Egypt like Auto Cross?

A: When I was in school about 16 years old and the boys had nothing to talk about other than the likes of Nasser Abou Heif, Samir Fawzy, and others. I just wanted to watch them in person; so, I started following Auto Cross taking place at the airport. And when I watch Moataz Atef for the first time, I fell in love with the sport and I just wanted to be like him.

Q: How did you think about becoming like those? How did you get your first car?

A: First, you have to have a car to start and my father did not quite understand what I wanted to do exactly. But, like any father he wanted to surprise and said “let’s go buy you a car”. I did not want anything in the car except a strong motor, a driving seat, and a steering wheel; nothing else mattered to me. So, we went down to a car dealership and my father found a brand new Opel Corsa and told me that this is my surprise. I told him that I was not interested in it and I just want to race; but, he did not want to get me a fast car as he feared for me. I did not have any other option and of course this car was better than no car at all. I started fixing things up regular things like the rims, the stereo system, and other stuff.

Q: When did you enter your first race?

A: As soon as I got back from the States.

Q: You travelled to the States for university education as soon as you finished high school; was racing on your mind then? Did you want it to be your future?

A: During those days, I wanted to be in Egypt and race; however, my family did not agree and so, I went to the States and I met up with some of my friends from my days in Saudi Arabia. Yet, my thoughts were fixated on Egypt and I used to talk with my brother over the phone a lot about the latest news about races, drivers, and cars. I stayed there for two years; but, I just could not take it. So, I came back to Egypt and entered my first race in 2000.

Q: You mentioned that your role models are Nasser Abou Heif and Moataz Atef. Those two have major accomplishments in Auto Cross especially Abou Heif who has a record of 18 championships while we do not see your name up there in records; yet, when we ask people about Auto Cross, they all mention your name. Why is that? And do you focus more on the “show”?

A: This comes down first to my driving style and technique, which people like to watch; but, that does not mean that I do not win races. I lack the necessary consistency especially as I travel outside Egypt a lot and sometimes, I am hooked up with a project that I am focused on so I would skip a race here or there. Yet – and I thank God for that, when I enter a timed race, I perform well and win; but, I do not have the consistency of those champions.

Q: Everything was going alright until 2005; what happened that year?

A: The airport accident happened; it is a well-known accident in which two drivers were racing and one of them stirred off course and hit the crowds watching with his Ford Mustang killing 6 and injuring 12; then, ran away. My name came up in the investigation as the other driver’s car looked like my silver BMW although the numbers on the plates were quite different. And so, I was arrested and spent 34 days in jail especially, after the authorities fabricated a case given the ongoing media and general public’s pressure in which they claimed that I organized the race.

But, it was an experience; an experience from which I learnt a lot.

Q: How did that experience change you?

A: The experience put me on the right track; when I sat alone, I felt a sense of serenity and I got close to God, which allowed to clearly perceive my reality. My father helped me in staying positive especially with his psychology background as he was specialized in crisis management and behavioral training. The whole issue ended when the Qatari was arrested and confirmed that he does not know me.

Q: What did you do after that? You travelled to Bahrain?

A: After 6 months, I wanted to try building a race track for Egypt; but, there was not much interest especially on the part of government officials. I later found out that they did not want to come close to motor sports as they required manufacturing things that they did not want to manufacture at the time. And so, I travelled to Bahrain and wanted to find a job there somewhere close to the race track so that I could learn the motor sports industry.

Unfortunately, there were no vacancies; however, I found a job in a specialized motor sports magazine especially as I had realized during my time in jail that I have a talent for writing in both English and Arabic. Within 3 months, I was managing the magazine and from there, I started to know how the industry is run and I travelled for test drives in Germany and Dubia. I, also, met leading figures including Jensen Button, David Coulthard and Ron Dennis executive chairman of McLaren Automotive.

Q: You went there with a dream to become a Formula 1 driver; what did you find out?

A: I realized that you can enter Formula 1 races at that age; first, you have got to have money since a starting Formula 1 driver has to pay a team to join it; so, it is not just about talent. So, I wanted to go through the experience to know whether I would be passionate about circuit driving like I am passionate about rallies and drifting so that I may decide whether I want to pursue it or not. I entered a Formula 1 BMW race and I performed well; however, I knew that I was not all that passionate about circuit driving. So, I continued working for the magazine and I came back to Egypt and started by own magazine.