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It’s been announced that Zulfahmi Khairuddin is leaving the Moto2™ World Championship, but the Malaysian is by no means stepping away from the world of two wheels. The Moto3™ podium finisher and former WorldSSP rider is an important part of the Sepang International Circuit-backed 'Impian ke MotoGP’ project – taking raw Malaysian talent and helping shape them into young, professional riders.
Interest in MotoGP™ reaches incredible levels in Malaysia, with Sepang always a sell-out event and the grandstands packed to the rafters. But it’s not just the premier class that piques interest in the country, it’s the world of two wheels – and even more so homegrown talent. This season, Hafizh Syahrin became the first Malaysian to reach MotoGP™ and the Moto2™ podium finisher has already scored points and finished as top rookie in Argentina in his first top ten, with support for the ‘Pescao’ sure to prove rock star level when the paddock heads back to Sepang in November.
As well as the present, however, Sepang Racing Team and Petronas Sprinta Racing have their eye on the future and the future of Malaysian talent on the world stage. Adding a new team in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship this year for two young Malaysian riders, Izam Ikmal and Idil Fitri Bin Mahadi, is an important part of their investment in the future of homegrown talent.
Khairuddin works with the two youngsters as they learn not only how to race but even how to train and how to approach their careers. It’s by no means an easy commute from Malaysia to European climes, but examples such as Syahrin in MotoGP™ and Adam Norrodin – who races for Petronas Sprinta Racing in the Moto3™ World Championship – show how well the investment can pay off; both ways.
Norrodin is, like teammate Ayumu Sasaki, a graduate from the Asia Talent Cup on the Road to MotoGP™. Sasaki was the 2015 Champion, then the 2016 Red Bull Rookies MotoGP Cup Champion, and then took the title of Rookie of the Year in his debut Moto3™ season last year. Norrodin, meanwhile, has already had a top five result this year – and was incredibly close to a podium in 2016 in Argentina.
Making his MotoGP™ debut: Syahrin's first day at school
“We had to develop riders for the future, for us to fill the current structure we have in Moto2 and Moto3,” says Razlan Razali, CEO of Sepang International Circuit. “We were concerned what would happen if we don’t have the riders. We created the program in December, searching for 13 and 16-year-olds with racing experience. Adam went through the Asia Talent Cup program, and then we took him on – Ayumu did the same thing. Our program aims to compliment that.”
Those riders were whittled down and are then put through their paces by Khairuddin, on production bikes, 250s, Moto3 and motocross machinery – as well as in fitness training. That program is what leads riders to the opportunity in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship and the junior Petronas Sprinta Racing team squad.
“We thought it was good to run our own team,” adds Johan Stigefelt, SIC Racing Team Manager. “We already have Moto3 knowledge, we can bring that knowledge and a lot of the guys we have in the Moto3 World Championship also work here, and it’s really nice to use the same people. It can help bring the guys up faster. Now we have the structure and a good base for the future.”
And looking towards that future, Razali has a simple aim: “The objective is to make MotoGP bigger and bigger in Malaysia, every year."
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