17-YEAR OLD SITI SHAKIRAH MAKES RACING DEBUT AT F1 SUPPORT RACE IN SEPANG

Published on March 9th, 2011

Aged 17 and still without a legal driving license, Siti Shakirah Shaharul will be making a dream debut to her track racing career; competing on a world class stage at the upcoming 2011 PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit next month albeit in a support race.

“Naturally, this is very different from all the go-kart races that I had competed before. This is the actual car race; with most of the top Malaysian drivers in the country in the field. It’s definitely a dream come true for me; and a challenge that I am really looking forward to,” said Siti, who has been named as the new Red Bull Rookie Racing driver for Malaysia along with 20-year old Mark Darwin.

A graduate of PETRONAS Formula Xperience (PFX) racing academy, Siti and Mark Darwin would be competing for the Sepang 1000-Kilometer Race at Sepang at the end of the year; teaming up with two other drivers – a Singaporean and a Bruneian, whom would be decided later by the team.

But, before the endurance race, both Siti and Mark would be taking the Red Bull Racing Satria Neo race machines to compete at the opening round of the Malaysian Super Series (MSS), which had been slotted for the first time as the support event for the F1 race.

“I have always dreamt being an F1 driver all my life … that’s why I joined the PFX last year. I am not driving in the F1 yet; but, I will be sharing the same race track with the F1 drivers in April. And, that’s pretty awesome I think,” said Siti, an ardent fan of David Coulthard and would be sitting for the SPM exams later this year.

Due to that, his parents had decided to cut racing activities; but agreed to allow her to test out for the Red Bull Rookies programme – a nationwide search for two under 21 Malaysian drivers and another two from Singapore and Brunei to compete at the S1K in December.

“We decided that she should concentrate hard on her studies this year for the SPM. But, she always wanted to race … all she wanted to do is racing most of the time. So, my wife and I allowed her to do the Red Bull Rookie programme as a compromise,” said Siti’s father Shaharul Mohd Ali.

Vying for the two other slots in the Red Bull Rookie Racing team for the S1K are Farhana Jaidin and Norfazilah Abdul Salam from Brunei; and six lady drivers from Singapore – Kuek Zi Yi, Amanda Chan, Emmiline Ang, Melissa Huang, Suzanne Chu and Amirah Mokhtar.

Introduced to go-karting at the age of four, Siti started racing go-karts since nine; doing a round of the Asia Karting Open Championship at the age of 11, on top of other local go-kart meets and competing against peers of the same age. This time at the MSS would, however, be an entirely different story.

Hailed as the national championship for track racing, the MSS was launched in April 2002. A brainchild of the late Tan Sri Basir Ismail – then, the chairman of SIC – and was an effort by the circuit to provide more competitive motorsports events for Malaysians and to unearth new talents as well as drawing more Malaysians to the circuit.

While it would be the first time for the drivers to show off their skills at the Malaysian F1 race, the MSS bike races had featured as support races at the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix – the two-wheel equivalent to the F1 – for the past five seasons. The car races, however, had been incorporated before as support races at the Super GT International Series Malaysia and the now-defunct A1GP World Cup of Motorsports.

For 2011, the MSS car competitions feature the Malaysian GT category – which runs an open class, the GT Class, Sports Production Class and the Touring Class – and the Malaysian Touring Car category, which is divided into Class 1 and Class 2, which grouped the Satria Neos race cars.

Launching the 2011 Formula 1 PETRONAS Malaysia Grand Prix at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek lauded SIC’s efforts in making the MSS as the support race for the F1 event and called up corporate companies take advantage of the opportunity for their own branding exercise.

The minister said that the the mileage that could be gained by companies having their names and brands at the event and on the competing cars would be massive; and that they would be a huge favour for the sports as well as the MSS has been a vital programme for motorsports development in Malaysia.

words & pix: SIC

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