Zulfahmi has good feeling about Japan Grand Prix

Published on September 29th, 2010

Coming into the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, Malaysia’s 125cc rider Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin has declared that he has a good feeling about the race in Motegi and that he is optimistic of a good show in his first outing in the Land of The Rising Sun.

“I did not manage to add points at the last race in Aragon, but the bike performed well there … it responded very well. I see a lot of positives from the race there. I am also on top on my health and I am really fired up,” said Zulfahmi when contacted today.

“Like all the other preceding races, I am going there for the first time and that will again be my disadvantage. But now, armed with the experience of competing races in Europe and the United States, I am like used to that kind of situation. I aim to do well in Japan. I aim to do my very best,” added the AirAsia Sepang International Circuit rider.

Originally slotted as the second round, the Japanese Grand Prix was postponed after air travel around Europe was disrupted by the Icelandic volcanic ashes. With the changes in schedule, Motegi would host Round 13 for the 125cc riders and Round 14 for the MotoGP riders, whom had an extra round at Laguna Seca in the United States.

Qualified 15th in a field of 31 riders – which was his best qualifying position as yet, the 18-year old rider from Banting was unlucky to finish outside the point-earning places in 16th place. The race was won by Spain’s Pol Espargaro, who is currently second in the championship standing with 202 points. Compatriot Nicolas Terol currently tops the point tally with 208 points and another Spaniard Marc Marques is third with a total haul of 197 points.

Commenting on the overall championship battle in the 125cc class, Zulfahmi said that it was very close and exciting; adding that he had no preference on any of riders to win the world title.

“My focus has always been on my own race. They are all very good riders; but I rather focus on what I want to do at the race,” said Zulfahmi, who admitted he was also excited that his home race in Sepang in coming near. The 2010 Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix will be held on the following weekend after Motegi from October 8 to 10.

“But, let’s not discuss about that as yet… let’s us all focus on the race in Japan this weekend,” added Zulfahmi, whose commendable performance in his rookie year has caught the interest of a few top racing teams.

Competition in Motegi is expected to be stiff as there would be an overcrowded grid with five additional wild card entries – Syunya Mori (Racing Sayama), Takehiro Yamamoto (Team Nobby), Hikari Ookubo (18 Garage Racing), Yuma Yahagi (Okegawajuku & Endurance) and Sasuke Shinozaki (Team Tec2).

In the overall battle of the 125cc class, competition is expected to be tight and a closely-fight contest with the difference between Terol, Espargaró and Márquez is just 11 points going into Round 13 at Motegi.

Terol’s consistency – two wins followed by two second places – in the previous four rounds have maintained his steady flow of high points hauls, whilst Espargaró’s first victory in eight rounds saw him pull back a deficit to top spot that had stood at 20 points before Aragón.

Combined with his podium result at Japan last year Espargaró will have an elevated confidence heading into this round. Márquez’s misfortune in crashing out through no fault of his own at Aragón merely added to the drama that continues to pour forth from the 125cc class.

The impressive Motegi facility was opened in 1998 to celebrate the Honda Motor company’s 50th anniversary, and the venue played host t its first World Championship race the following year, when it hosted the Pacific GP. It has been home to the Japanese GP since 2004.

Motegi has been a victim of the weather over the last couple of years, with qualifying cancelled in 2009 due to torrential rain and then the ash cloud earlier this year meaning the entire race had to be postponed, hence its delayed appearance in the calendar now.

Designed in 1997 as a test venue, Motegi features a somewhat geometric track layout. The surface offers good levels of grip without being overly abrasive but the proliferation of second gear turns, linked for the most part by mini-drag strips, means braking and acceleration are the main prerequisite to a fast lap time.

words & pix: SIC

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