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South-east Asian presence continues to grow

No less than 11 competitors from the south-east Asian region are set to line up for World Championship races at Sepang this weekend, confirming the growing interest in MotoGP™ amongst riders from the territory.

In 2014, the brand-new Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup will help to showcase the best Asian talents as a direct stepping stone to the World Championship. In the meantime, familiar faces and wildcards alike are helping to diversify the starting grids of the Moto2™ and Moto3™ categories in particular.

In Malaysia, the most familiar motorcycle face of all is that of Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who rose to superstar status in his home nation as he missed out on victory in last year’s Sepang Moto3™ race by just centimetres. This weekend, after a crash at the previous round in Aragón and following medical check-ups, he is relieved to be returning for another attempt and is already filling the pages of local newspapers.

Khairuddin is joined on this weekend’s lightweight class grid by compatriots and wildcard riders Aizat Malik and Hafiq Azmi, who in the Spanish CEV Repsol Championship are riding for Aki Ajo: leading team owner and renowned talent scout.

When it comes to the Moto2™ class, competing are no less than eight riders from south-east Asia; incidentally, an area populated by over 600 million people. Between them, the riders represent Indonesia and Thailand as well as Malaysia.

Having already established a reputation in national championships, Malaysia’s Hafizh Syahrin and Thailand’s Decha Kraisart are competing with respective Kalex and Tech3 machines, as Syahrin’s fellow countryman Azlan Shah continues to hold the responsibility of covering for Yuki Takahashi at Idemitsu Honda Team Asia, piloting the Moriwaki motorcycle. Another Thai, Thitipong Worokorn, remains on the climb up the learning curve at Thai Honda PTT Gresini Moto2, guided by fellow countryman and former racer Ratthapark Wilairot who serves as his mentor.

Boosting the representation of the region yet further, Malaysian Zaqhwan Zaidi has been selected as substitute for the injured Randy Krummenacher at Technomag carXpert, whereas Indonesia is represented by Fadli Immammuddin and Moto2™ regulars Doni Tata Pradita and Rafid Topan Sucipto. With some 70,000 having made up Sepang’s largest ever MotoGP™ spectator attendance last year, those competing have good reason to be apprehensive as expectant fans watch on.

With a handful of south-east Asian riders already mixing it with rivals from around the globe in the World Championship, they now have further reason to perform as from next year in particular they will be under the watchful eye of Tony Fernandes. The Malaysian entrepreneur, head of the Tune Group and owner of airline AirAsia, will on Sunday present his Caterham outfit which will grace the Moto2™ grid next season. Californian Josh Herrin will be part of the line-up as the England-based team dives into the world of MotoGP™ alongside its car racing projects. Furthermore, new opportunities will be opened up from an engineering point of view, with Caterham set to reveal its full plans ahead of the Sepang Warm-Up sessions on Sunday morning.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2013

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