Professional racing drivers are a different breed of athlete. They have more in common with Olympians than with NFL, NBA, or FIFA players. Olympians live to train. They get one shot every four years, and simply getting there is only half the battle. When it comes to major sports, there is a system for those who have dreams of going pro. You start practicing at a young age, play in school, get a scholarship to play at the university level, and fight for your shot to get drafted into the industry. But racing, that takes a considerably different kind set of skills that go beyond car-control and heel-and-toe downshifting.
In my experience, I have yet to meet someone who considered themselves an automotive enthusiast and didn’t also fantasize about being a professional racing driver. It’s the dream to get paid handsomely to drive fast around a track, off-road stage, or drift circuit. There are millions of racing drivers globally, but realistically only an estimated 3,000-4,000 of these drivers are considered a pro.
Being a pro driver means racing is in your job description and it’s what puts food on the table. You have sponsors that foot the bill while you drive. For millions of racing drivers, this is only partially true. Most race as a hobby, paying their own way. Some have sponsors that help with a fraction of the cost. Only a proportionate handful of racing drivers can say they are professional grade. Ahmed ” Scotland” Khader is a professional race car driver. He is more commonly known in the world of motorsports by his nickname “Ahmed Scotland”, and has been racing in Saudi Arabia for the last six years.
He is more commonly known in the world of motorsports by his nickname “Ahmed Scotland”, and has been racing in Saudi Arabia for the last six years.
I had the good fortune to have an exclusive interview with Ahmed Scotland to learn more about what it takes to be a pro driver. In doing so, I discovered that Ahmed Scotland is a man of many talents, bulletproof ambitions, and a fascinating history.
To understand Ahmed Scotland’s drive to achieve in a motorsports career, you must first understand a little bit about his upbringing. Ahmed’s family moved to the United Kingdom from Palestine when he was just a few years old. He was raised in Scotland by two war-hardened field medic parents who worked as doctors. Ahmed Scotland is the only racer in a family of doctors, with two younger sisters who also grew up to join the medical field.
It was a very tough beginning for Ahmed’s parents, and they didn’t have much when they first moved to the UK. There were many unimaginable challenges his parents had to overcome while building a life for their children. However, Ahmed Scotland holds no hard feelings and remembers his past from a positive perspective. His family had moved to the UK and had to start from the bottom, but that meant they could only look upward and onward.
When Ahmed’s father earned his first raise, he decided to move the family into a small apartment. There he and Ahmed’s mother would sleep on the living room floor while the children shared the bedroom. This was a necessary effort that allowed him to enroll Ahmed Scotland in a distinguished school in Edinburgh. As his father put it, “education is your passport,” and he wanted to separate his son from the potential bad influences in their neighborhood.
It was here that Ahmed Scotland started to go the extra mile in his studies and graduated with a Design Engineering degree from Edinburgh Napier University.
This created a double-life scenario for Ahmed juggling his school friends by day and neighborhood friends at night. Even though he danced across the line, he always moved down the straight and narrow. This double life continued into college. It was here that Ahmed Scotland started to go the extra mile in his studies and graduated with a Design Engineering degree from Edinburgh Napier University.
I should also mention that Ahmed Scotland can also sing. In his early 20s, Ahmed was still working on his voice but found a natural ability for songwriting and started rapping. But unlike most, he did it for the love of the skill and used his actual name rather than a stage name. He still sings today, but it is more of a hobby now.
During this time, he met Samantha, a woman who saw the good beneath his rough edges. She was Australian, working as a model and Motown singer, trying to find her path just as he was. The two became best friends spending nearly every day together, creating a bond only found in kindred spirits. The music and modeling industry are not known for their good-natured associates, so they agreed to pursue different goals. Ahmed convinced Samantha to move back to Australia. Meantime he would leave the UK to Saudi Arabia, get a job as an engineer, and work nonstop to make a name for himself.
The idea was that after a year to 18 months of hard work, he could get a job offer in Australia and be able to join her once again. He placed his music career in the back seat and left for Saudi Arabia to work as a plastics engineer. Now, Saudi Arabia was a dramatically different place from the country we see today with extravagant shows of oil money. When Ahmed arrived, he was met with a language barrier, cultural barrier, and no contacts, so he did what he’s always done – he got to work.
When Ahmed arrived, he was met with a language barrier, cultural barrier, and no contacts, so he did what he’s always done – he got to work.
After less than two years of working 18-hour days and impressing the right people with his tireless effort, he achieved what he set out to do. Ahmed received two job offers in Australia and agreed to take one. Unfortunately, life is a journey traveled with blind spots waiting to T-bone you at any given moment. Two months before Ahmed was preparing to leave for Australia, he got the news that Samantha had been killed. The love of his life was unexpectedly gone, and it took all the color with it. His life turned to grey as his career stalled, slowed down by the crushing weight of depression.
Soon, he found himself working a dead-end job in Saudi Arabia doing manual labor. All he had was a 2002 Ford Mustang with one wheel already in the salvage yard. Still, the old Mustang’s V8 had heart and took Ahmed anywhere he needed to go, which were often 4-5 hour round trip daily commutes to work. The Mustang became his rock during this grey chapter in his life. When he felt discouraged, the car would lift his spirits by simply turning on in the morning. The car never left him stranded in the desert or asked for expensive repairs beyond oil and gasoline.
Ahmed Scotland is a man who always gets up after being knocked down. It took some time, but through a series of events, his engineering knowledge landed a great opportunity working for a construction company. The day he was hired, he drove home with the exciting news ringing in his heart. Ahmed drove into the parking garage. As the Mustang reversed into the same parking space, the transmission blew up, and the engine died as the Mustang coasted lifelessly into the parking space. Ahmed felt like the Mustang was holding itself together until it knew he was going to be alright. Once he was, the car was finally able to let go. This is a textbook example of the sentimental bond people can form with their cars.
Ahmed spent his first paycheck fixing his Mustang and still owns the car today. The car has gone through several modifications, and enough adventures to be the topic of its own article.
When 2014 turned to 2015, Ahmed was 27, and he decided to do something that shocked everyone he knew. He quit his job as a deputy general manager to pursue a brand new career in motorsport. Cars had been a passion in his life from a very young age, so the decision to become a race car driver was a matter of now or never.
Unlike most who think a racing career starts on a race track, Ahmed Scotland hit the books first. He spent nine months studying the ins-and-outs of motorsport marketing. He looked at drivers like WRC driver Ken Block and stunt driver Terry Grant as role models during his studies. Ahmed Scotland explained why:
“Ken Block doesn’t need to win first place to get paid. He competes in a WRC race, and then makes viral videos on YouTube while making sure everyone knows who the sponsors are.”
After nine months of studying, he started writing proposals and knocking on doors to meet with marketing departments and sign potential sponsors. Ahmed Scotland soon landed support from the food and beverage company Nadec. His first sponsor before he was finally able to work his way towards his current sponsor, Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists (AlloyKSA) who has been supporting him ever since.
Ahmed Scotland designed his proposal like a business professional rather than a racer. His pitch focused on showing the marketing department how he could produce a healthy return on their investment.
Ahmed Scotland designed his proposal like a business professional rather than a racer. His pitch focused on showing the marketing department how he could produce a healthy return on their investment. If you make the sponsors happy, it doesn’t matter how many podiums you score. Motorsport may be driven by passion, but it’s fueled by business.
During the interview, Ahmed Scotland explained that he broke even by the end of the one-year contract with Nadec. However, his sponsors were happy with the returns he created, which proved that he was not only a talented driver but a profitable investment. More importantly, he was now the owner of a Legend race car, a tow truck, equipment, and his own brand after his contract ended.
Ahmed Scotland signed with AlloyKSA soon afterward, and for the last six years, has been a full-time race car driver through the extreme ups and downs pro drivers face in these demanding careers. AlloyKSA has been supporting him since the beginning and grew together until they were finally able to sign him as their full-time title sponsored driver. And in doing so, they established the #AlloyArmy, a collection of racing drivers and enthusiasts that span across track, drift, drag, rally, cruisers, and motorcycles.
That’s what we don’t always learn when it comes to auto racing. We see the drivers. We imagine what it must be like to be racing flat-out at Daytona 500 or the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but rarely do we think about the industry’s business side. Ahmed Scotland doesn’t sugar-coat it. Being a pro-driver is a 24/7 business. It takes priority over everything, including social and personal obligations. Similar to training for the Olympics, only the torch is lit every year. But the sacrifice is made because racing is life.
As Ahmed describes it, going after a dream means, “You have to step into the darkness, away from the safety of the campfire.”
As Ahmed describes it, going after a dream means, “You have to step into the darkness, away from the safety of the campfire.” You’re going against the norm, leaving the comfort and warmth of what you know to find what you want in the unknown.
At the end of the interview, I asked Ahmed Scotland what advice he had for someone looking to turn pro in their chosen field.
“Don’t just focus on the parts of the dream you enjoy doing. It’s not just about racing a car. It’s not just about the lap times and trophies. You have to learn to do the day-to-day stuff, the boring things you don’t want to do. Planning, writing proposals and contracts, creating budgets, and managing involves answering emails and the countless hours of studying while finding time to train and sharpen the skill. This is the reality that comes with a dream career. A racing driver doesn’t just race in the car. They race to manage the business and keep their clients happy. It isn’t easy to convince a company to pay you when there is a line of drivers willing to do your job for free, or even pay for the privilege. It’s why you have no choice but to work hard and make sacrifices. Nothing worthwhile ever came easy.”
If racing were easy, everyone would do it.
To say that speaking with Ahmed “Scotland” Khader was inspirational is an understatement. Even days after his interview, his words are still ringing in my ears while writing this article. I encourage all to follow him on Instagram to witness the positivity and motivation he puts out into the world when he isn’t putting the hammer down in a legend race car.