The Moto GP comes roaring into Malaysia on 19-21 October, along with the fiercely contested Moto2 and Moto3 championships that fans can see for the incredibly cheap price of RM21 per day. Malaysian fans are already showing their excitement for the races and the possibility of home-grown-hero Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin, known as Fahmi, in his first home race since becoming a Moto3 rider for AirAsia-SIC-AJO.
This year has been a steep learning curve for the 20-year-old and he has shown his huge potential by finishing a close fourth in two races and qualifying on the front row of the grid numerous times, which for a debut season is very impressive. “Everyone can see that the results have improved on last year and the team (KTM) have worked really hard this year to get a good bike,” says Fahmi at a press conference recently.
These sentiments were echoed by Dato’ Razlan Razali, CEO of Sepang International Circuit (SIC) “Fahmi has improved tremendously…and it is only his third season on a full frame bike. The following he has from the Malaysian public and we are well on our way to selling the 70,000 tickets for the event this weekend.”
Fahmi is also is in good company this season, with KTM team mates Sandro Cortese leading the championship and Danny Kent getting his first Moto3 win last weekend in Japan. He cites riding with Sandro as a big influence on his learning this season and it can only have helped his development to be in and around future stars of the sport. As both Sandro and Danny are heading to Moto2 next season, it should give Fahmi a chance to show what he is made of and challenge for the title.
This is his first race back on home-turf after moving to Moto3 and Fahmi is hopeful of achieving a podium this weekend; however he is playing down expectations and being more realistic. “I will try to make sure that all of the spectators in Sepang enjoy my performance during the day. Of course I will try to grab the podium position, but it is better for me to stay focus(ed).”
We will have to wait until the weekend before we know if the young Malaysian can handle the enormous pressure from fans and deliver the podium finish they so desperately crave. However, the future looks very bright for Malaysian motor sport, thanks to Air Asia and SIC who have put in place a programme tailored to get riders into the top tier of their sport, whether it be Moto GP or Formula 1. “The programme is designed to get more Malaysian riders into the world championships; through our own programme the Ninja 250 cup”, said Dato Razali. He further mentions that the talent is most definitely there, and hopefully it won’t be long before you will see a Malaysian rider in the top echelon of the sport.
One rider who is certainly on the top of his game, Jorge Lorenzo, took time out of his busy preparations, to meet fans at the Alpinestars store in KL and promote the new Airtech racing leathers from the company. He looks on course to become a two time world champion and just needs to finish third in the last three races to clinch the title, and that’s only if rival Dani Pedrosa wins every race.
Lorenzo taking time out
Lorenzo has good memories of Sepang, after clinching his first Moto GP world title here in 2010, “I have great memories of Malaysia and Sepang after winning two of my titles here (250cc title in 2007),” said the star. “Malaysia is always a track I have been really quick (on); we can try to win some races between now and the end of the season”. So if you were expecting him to sit back on his laurels and ride a dull race, think again!
After the tragedy of last year’s race, this year at Sepang will host fitting tributes to Marco Simoncelli and the hosts will be praying for a quiet race this year, when asked Dato’ Razali outlined briefly the measures they had taken in the lead up to the race, “We have increased the training of both the marshals and the medical (teams) from before Formula 1 this year. We have been working with Dorna to make sure we improve and we don’t get complacent and if anything like that happens again we can react faster,” This is something that will no doubt reassure both the fans and riders heading into this weekend.
Pedrosa and Stoner will be hot on Jorge Lorenzo’s heels
From the number of fans and press clamouring for photos and autographs of the star, Malaysians will be cheering Lorenzo through to the finish line. One factor that will help the Spaniard is the return of Casey Stoner, who will be gunning for victory in his last home grand prix at Phillip Island and will do everything in his power to deny Pedrosa that victory, effectively handing the title to Lorenzo, if the championship favourite keeps his amazingly consistent form for the last few races.