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Khairuddin in the history books with Malaysia’s first-ever podium

Khairuddin in the history books with Malaysia’s first-ever podium

A day after turning 21, Malaysia’s Moto3™ rider Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin made history as he delivered Malaysia’s first ever podium by finishing second at the 2012 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit on Sunday.

It was however close to being the perfect birthday present for the Banting-born rider, as he was just two corners away from victory before being passed by German Sandro Cortese, who wanted to mark his day of winning the Moto3 world crown in style with a victory.   

Starting from pole position, Zulfahmi took the holeshot into Turn 1; but let Jonas Folger pass him in the third corner; allowing the Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3 rider to lead.

“It was a strategy that we decided before the race; learning from our past experience. I know that my bike has a straight-line speed advantage over Folger, so it was no problem to have him in front,” Zulfahmi said.

With eight laps remaining, a few rain flags came out in some corners on the track as the rain came. And that prompted Khairuddin to make his move on Folger to take the lead, much to the delight of the local crowd.

“Only when I felt a few drops of rain on my visor mid-way through the race; that’s when I decided to pass him and lead. I feared that it might suddenly rain and they might red flag the race. If that happens, I would want to be at the front.

“But, there was just little rain and there was no need to stop the race. So I just pushed,” said Khairuddin, who occasionally was passed by Folger, yet immediately overtook back, with the Malaysian rider having the crowd sitting at the edge of their seats as he pushed his KTM machine to the limit.

With five laps to go, Cortese was clearly not content to stick it out and sail to his world championship, as he went past Folger into second to hunt down Khairuddin. And it was a typically breath-taking Moto3 last-lap, with Cortese passing the Malaysian in the final turn to deny him victory at his home track.

“I actually made a mistake at the second last corner and that allowed Cortese to pass me. I tried to fight back at the last corner at Turn 15; but braked too late. I had a slight bump at the entry and then decided second place is better than a crash.

“I am very happy to finish second. I would also like to thank the crowd. They were great all the way and I was really fired up to their cheers. I would also like to thank KTM for the bike…we had an excellent bike throughout the weekend,” added Zulfahmi.

Moto3, 2012, MALAYSIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX, Zulfahmi Khairuddin, AirAsia-SIC-AJO

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