At just four-years-old, Yuliana Grasman started to showcase her love for all things cars. And at the age of 11, the Kazakhstani girl got her first taste of being behind the wheel. Today, that passion for all things motors has bagged her the title of the UAE’s first female 4×4 freestyle drifter, and she says it’s been the ride of her life.
Going by the track name ‘Afra’, Grasman told Khaleej Times that she’s been a «petrol head» (car fanatic) from as young as she can remember. «Growing up in Kazakhstan, I used to take the cushions from the sofa and stack them in a square, then I’d tell my brother to sit behind me and I’d pretend to drive it like a car.»
Yuliana Grasman aka Afra in action during a race in the UAE. – Supplied photo
When she got a little older, Grasman’s father took her off-road to teach her how to drive a manual car. And she hasn’t looked back since.
«I was always the one to put my hand up first when he’d ask me and my brother who wanted to get behind the wheel. I loved that feeling of movement, motion, being in control.»
As the years went by and her interest in driving and fixing cars grew, Grasman, now in her mid-twenties, competed in her first competition at 15. And as the only female competitor, she went on to bag her first victory against an all male competitor line-up.
«I won the equivalent of about Dh500 in that first drag race. It was a lot of money for me back then but it was the rush that excited me, not the cash. I got a real taste for success and was so obsessed with movement, racing and learning more about cars.»
Yuliana Grasman drives a Nissan Patrol called black edition, rebuilding it herself from the scratch.- Supplied photo
At that time, in her home country, she said very few females participated in such activities; so winning against men in front of a crowd gave her even more motivation to continue.
Fight for her dream
But it wasn’t without its struggles. Grasman said her parents raised concerns at the beginning about being involved in such a male-dominated sport.