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Poncharal: “I want to keep Syahrin for 2018”

Team Manager says he wants to keep the Malaysian, with discussions now underway with sponsors to sign off on the deal

After Hafizh Syahrin’s impressive debut at the #ThaiTest, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team Manager Herve Poncharal says he wants to sign the Malaysian up full time – and is now discussing the possibility with sponsors. With a vacant seat after Jonas Folger announced he wouldn’t be competing in 2018 – needing more time to recover – Yonny Hernandez tested for the squad at Sepang, before Syahrin became the first ever Malaysian in the premier class as he got on the bike at Buriram.

So why was Syahrin impressive? The Ampang native was consistently progressing in terms of his own laptime, and managed to finish the #ThaiTest P22 on combined timesheets – ahead of both Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) and Syahrin’s fellow rookie Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing). By the close of action, the Malaysian was only 1.7 seconds off Dani Pedrosa’s (Repsol Honda Team) fastest lap of the test, riding the bike that testing teammate Johann Zarco rode to Rookie of the Year in 2017.

"It was a good surprise,” says Poncharal of his most recent debutant. “You have to keep in mind that Hafizh was absolutely unprepared, that he was heading for his Moto2™ project...But Razlan Razali agreed to trust us with his rider for these three days of testing. I also want to thank him. Getting to MotoGP™ is every rider’s dream.”

Making his MotoGP™ debut: Syahrin's first day at school

That it is, which brings its own personal pressure. Plus that of being the first from his MotoGP™-mad nation to debut in the premier class, plus the fact it was already the third time on the bike for most of Syahrin’s fellow rookies…and Poncharal knows that. The Frenchman also underlined before the test that they were looking at his progress and potential – not expecting him to top the timesheets.

“There was pressure on Hafizh's shoulders in Buriram,” continues the Team Manager. “No Malaysian had ever ridden in MotoGP ™ before him. He also had a bit of a handicap compared to other rookies like Takaaki, Franco, Tom or Xavier who already had a few kilometers on the clock. He had to perform, without crashing, and in these conditions it’s easy to make a mistake. He has done a great job, he progressed every day and he finished only 1.7 seconds from the best laptime - knowing that he’s far from having reached his full potential. I am really amazed! In addition, he’s someone who is super humble off track, super nice. And then clearly, I always consider Monster Yamaha Tech 3 to be a junior team, and Hafizh also sticks to that profile."

So the big question – will Syahrin be lining up full time? If it’s down to Poncharal, the answer is yes.

“I want to keep him for the 2018 season, but I have to first convince all my partners. Right now there’s nothing decided, but I won’t hide the fact that I’d be very disappointed if we can’t come to an agreement. I think we’ve found a rider who is the perfect fit for what we’re looking for. After the unfortunate and late withdrawal of Jonas Folger, it’s the best solution we have.”

MotoGP™ are back on track on the 1st March for more testing, this time in Qatar. Will Syahrin be lining up once again?