Four more survivors on the island of 2009 Malaysian Wildcard Programme

Published on July 10th, 2009

Desperation, frustration and an overwhelming sense of pride in having a local line-up on the grid together with the rest of the international riders in the Motorcycle Grand Prix has prompted five parties to join forces in a bid to identify deserving riders to fill the wildcard spots come the 2009 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix from 23-25 October.

Wildcard slots have been a regular occurrence for all three Moto GP categories and are often presented to guest riders that are local to the Grand Prix. The wildcard slots present the riders with an opportunity to race on their home track in a highly charged competitive environment against the elite of two-wheeled racing.

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It also serves as a gateway for younger riders to make their Grand Prix debuts in a local and identifiable environment to familiarize themselves with the elite class of motor racing.

In return for providing riders with a wildcard ride, the teams are repaid with a stronger representation at home or important Grand Prix date, more data collected to prepare for race day and to further evaluate the rider’s ability if any of the teams have the interest to give him a permanent ride for the following season.

However, it must be noted that a wildcard entrant cannot score points for the Team World Championship.

With October fast approaching, the Malaysian programme to identify prospective and deserving recipients of the local wildcard allotment has narrowed down its search to four participants.

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Elly Idzlianizar Ilias, Md. Iskandar Raduan, Mohd. Farid Ahmad and Mohd Zulfahmi Khairuddin managed to beat the clock and the other 13 participants in the programme to make it to the final stages of selection.

The pool of 17 riders were tabbed from the current Petronas Sprinta Malaysian Cub Prix Championship with just two coming from the Malaysian Super Series Bikerz Mag 150cc Cup.

“I’m pleased to see valuable progress in the effort to place these boys on the grid come October,” enthused Razlan Razali, Sepang International Circuit (SIC) Chief Executive Officer.

Since the programme’s launch back in May, the rider’s have undergone various stages of training and practice at SIC on Yamaha 125cc machines.

The panel of judges that have been tasked with picking the nation’s best hope on the Moto GP circuit includes Shahrul Yuzy, our very own 250cc rider, Fuad Baharuddin of Asian Super Sport Rider and Razlan Razali.

Next up for the chosen four will be a comprehensive training session for two months under the tutelage of Shahrul at SIC.

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“I’m going to make them faster, more precise and remove any doubt they have in their head so they become one with their machine,” said Shahrul.

This time around, the quadruplet of riders will get their own machines too, allowing them to fine- tune their bikes to suit their riding styles.

Following the completion of the training, the judging committee will decide on the final two riders to be recommended to Dorna, the Moto GP worldwide right holder, and the FIM as the wildcard entry to compete in the 125cc come the 2009 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

The Malaysian Wildcard Programme 2009 is a collaboration between SIC, Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM), Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM), Two Wheels Motor Racing (TWMR), Moto Millia and Hong Leong Yamaha.

The wildcard slots have been the gateway for many of Moto GP’s legends to breakthrough onto the world stage.

Arguably one of the most memorable wildcard entrants was the late Norick Abe. Making his debut at the tender age of 19 at the 1994 Grand Prix at Suzuka, Abe fearlessly battled with the likes of Mick Doohan and Kevin Schwantz before hitting the black top a few laps from the chequered flag.

The performance though didn’t go unnoticed and earned Abe a permanent ride. Two years later, his faith was repaid as he crossed the line ahead of everyone at the Suzuka, earning the honour of being the first Japanese rider to top the podium in a World Championship since 1982.

Daijiro Kato finished third in the quarter litre segment in 1996 before winning the race outright in 1997 and 1998, each time as a wildcard entrant. To top it all off, Kato’s victory in 1998 was all the more delightful as he and two other Japanese wildcard entrants topped the podium, marking the first time a three wildcards have filled the podium at a Grand Prix.

text: Dinesh Appavu  pix: Syawal Ahmad

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