JONAS FOLGER IS ZULFAHMI’S CHOICE FOR 2011 WORLD CHAMPION

Published on March 16th, 2011

Though former Moto2 rider Hector Faubel was the fastest rider at the MotoGP 125 World Championship at the pre-season test, Malaysian rider Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin believes that it will be Jonas Folger winning the world crown this season.

“If you ask for my predictions, I pick Jonas Folger. I believe he can make some surprises this year,” said the AirAsia SIC AJO Racing rider, who would be making his second season in the world championship this year.

The new season starts in Doha this weekend with the Qatar Grand Prix; and the 125 class, which will be in its last year this season, be crowning a new world champion this year with defending champion Marc Marques moving upwards to more competitive Moto2 class.

While he chose not to speak about his own chances, Zulfahmi, however, noted that it would be a very close battle this year for the crown throughout the season and that Fauber would be one of the leading candidates to challenge for the world crown.

“Of course, Hector Fauber will be strong especially with his experience competing in Moto2 last year. Then, there’s also Nico Terol and a long list of other Spanish riders. They are usually very strong despite their young age. But then, this is motor racing and anything is possible,” said the 19-year old rider from Banting, Selangor.

Like Zulfahmi, Folger would be managed by Aki Ajo; but under the banner of Red Bull Ajo Motorsport and partnering another Red Bull MotoGP academy graduate, Danny Kent. Apart from Zulfahmi, Folger and Kent, Ajo, who successfully managed Marques to world championship glory last season, would also be managing Efren Vazquez and Johann Zarco under the banner of Ajo Motorsport.

Representing Ongetta Racing last year, the young German finished in mid-table in 14th place with 69 points with two fourth placing as his best finish. It would indeed take a high roller to bet on Folger winning the crown; and Zulfahmi could be, perhaps, influenced by his closeness to Folger in making his prediction as the Malaysian was also managed by the Italian team.

Moving to Ajo Motorsport this year, Zulfahmi, who finished 24th overall last year with four world championship points, said that he was very happy with his new team; and that he was looking forward to the new season and confident of a better show in 2011.

“Based on what I saw at the pre-season testing this season, I foresee that it’s going to be an even more challenging season this year,” Zulfahmi said, adding that he would be taking a race-by-race approach and aiming to better his achievement in his rookie year.

In challenging for the 2011 crown, Faubel, who finished second in the 125 class in 2007 season behind Hungarian Gabor Talmacsi, the Spaniard had returned to the Bancaja Aspar team and would have compatriot Nico Terol, who was vice-champion last year to Marques.

Speaking on his move, Faubel said: “It’s very special for me to return to Jorge’s (Martinez) team. I was here for five years and three of those were fantastic. He convinced me to race in the 125cc this year … The idea is to return to a category I know well and a team I know very well, and to fight for the title.

“In 2007, I was denied (the title) by problems that arose with the bike in Malaysia; but this year, I want to fight to the end and achieve it,” said Faubel in a recent interview with motogp.com.

At the penultimate race in Sepang in 2007 which was won by Talmacsi, Faubel finished third and 7.793 seconds behind the Hungarian and effectively ended his world championship aspirations. He, however, got his revenge; winning the final race in Valencia and beating Talmacsi to second place in front of his home crowd.

Contrary to Zulfahmi’s prediction, Faubel had named Terol as his main challenger; along with another Spaniard Sergio Gadea, whom like Faubel, has returned to the 125cc class after a disappointing season in Moto2 and joining the new Paris Hilton’s 125 team.

“There’s also Efren Vazquez, Tomoyoshi Koyama and there are new riders emerging. Nothing is easy; but I really don’t want to think about my rivals. I have to focus myself, improve the bike day by day and be stronger in each race. I think we will be 100 percent competitive in Qatar,” Faubel added.

Sharing the sentiments of his team-mate, Terol, who has also set the world title as his target, had named Faubel as his main challenger to his mission.

“My team-mate, Hector Faubel will be a great rival, he was the world championship runner-up in this class. And, there’s also (Sandro) Cortese, Gadea and Vazquez, and others. You always have to be ready at 100 percent,” said Terol in commenting on the new 2011 season.

words & pix: SIC

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