Zulfahmi told to forget Catalunya and shift focus on Sachsenring

Published on July 14th, 2010

Having performed beyond expectations to score his first championship point by Round 6 of the world MotoGP, Zulfahmi Khairuddin of Malaysia’s AirAsia Sepang International Circuit Racing Team has been advised to maintain his impressive form; but maintaining focus without putting unnecessary pressure on himself.

While expressing confidence that Fahmi would continue to be fully focused on his races as he had performed in the previous rounds, SIC Chief Executive Officer Razlan Razali said that the Malaysian youngster should approach the upcoming German Grand Prix in Sachsenring this weekend as the same way as he had done for the previous five rounds.

“Fahmi should put aside what he did last race and approach the German GP on a clean slate with the same routine and focus. Nothing should change from his approach to each race,” said Razlan, who dismissed suggestions that the 18-year old rider from Banting would be under additional pressure to perform in Germany as expectation increased on the Malaysian rider.

“Pressure will always be there on Fahmi especially from the local media and the stakeholders. As much as we told him to enjoy and relax, it is still difficult. But, having said that, Fahmi is doing well mentally and physically, as we have seen often enough that during practice and qualifying, he crashes a fair bit; but picked himself up, focused and performed well,” said Razlan, who also stressed the need for Malaysians not to increase their expectations in view of Fahmi’s commendable results at the Catalunyan Grand Prix.

Competing in only his sixth world MotoGP 125cc race, Fahmi, who nine months ago was competing in the Malaysian Cub Prix novice category, finished the Catalunyan Grand Prix in 15th place; which gave him one world championship point and 21st place in the overall championship standing. The race was won by Spaniard Marc Marques with British Bradley Smith and Pol Espagaro completing the podium.

Established by SIC and supported by Malaysia’s low budget carrier, the AirAsia Sepang International Circuit Racing Team is the second Malaysian GP outfit. The first was the PETRONAS Sprinta Yamaha Team TVK, whose rider was Shahrol Yuzy Ahmad Zaini – coincidentally Fahmi’s mentor at Yuzy Modenas Pachi Racing Team.

Razlan, who first saw Fahmi in action during selection for the 2009 Malaysian GP Wildcard Programme, has only praises for the young Malaysian; saying that he admired his commitment and dedication to improve himself.

“He always wants to do better. He feels that he can push more and gets disappointed for not. He always asked me on ways to improve himself and my reply to him is that he has done well and had met his objective. I also told him to continue learning so that he can do better in the next round.”

Razlan said, “I feel that he has done very well since his first race. I don’t expect much more than what we have set for Fahmi which is in the first year, it is a learning year for him to understand and familiarise himself to all the circuits in the MotoGP Championship.”

“Fahmi needs to improve in his times from the first time he gets on a new track to improving his positions for qualifying. During the race, it’s all about learning as well in which he has to learn as the race progresses and on to the next circuit. Since Qatar he has done exactly this; with bumps and bruises and exceeded all expectations especially in securing his first ever championship point in Catalunya. He had only one DNF due to mechanical problems at Silverstone; but at that time he fell three times prior to race day and was improving in his times and position.”

Currently based in Bologna, Italy, Fahmi clocked the 17th fastest time in his first qualifying test at the Qatar Grand Prix, which he finished in 21th place. Round 2 in Jerez turned out to be a painful experience when he crashed badly in qualifying and had to spend nine hours in hospital. But, the Malaysian lad miraculously started the race and finished 20th.

“In general, considering his lack of racing on a 125cc bike and no international competition at all at any of the circuits, he had performed extremely well. The second year in 2011, however, will be difficult as the expectations from Fahmi will be greater as the objective is to consistently score points and hence in the top 15.”

Razlan said, “Fahmi would still need to work on learning the characteristics of the bike. This is what he is doing in the first year and we are confident that the second half of the championship he should be able to perform much better. He also needs to be consistent with his training, routines in approaching a race weekend and increase communication with his engineers and mechanics. For a boy who has never ventured out of Malaysia and now learning to speak English fluently and even other languages such as Spanish and Italian, this is an opportunity that he needs to capitalise fully… Fahmi, however, would still need to be grounded in terms of the position he is now, discipline in all areas and focus in the task at hand,” he added.

On the kind of support that Zulfahmi still needed to progress further, Razlan singled out on the consistent reminder to Fahmi to just improve on the track times and enjoy the race.

“Whatever results during the race is all based on his continuous learning experience. If he improves on his qualifying position after the race, it is a big bonus for him and confidence booster. Based on his current progress, this boy has great talent. Everyone in the industry knows of him, the team and his background. Other teams will pay more attention to him when he performs better. They know he does not have that experience and quite frankly everyone is surprised at his progress so soon. I expect him to be a title contender in his third year.”

He added that the team operator, World Wide Racing Team have been doing a great job in training and advising Fahmi, helping him in his progress and development in the race.

Though his participation in the world MotoGP was still new, Razlan said the young Malaysian had provided strong impact to Malaysia’s motorsports.

“Through Zulfahmi’s MotoGP adventure, he had instill the belief that Malaysians have both talent and skill. I am sure he has made tremendous impact to normal ‘mat motor’ in Malaysia. I am sure they all aspire to become and be like him, where he is now. We have already seen an increase in the number of entries in the MSS for supersports category. Everyone is jumping to the opportunity of being selected to be the next Fahmi. It’s definitely a strong positive impact to Malaysia’s motorsport,” he added.

AirAsia-SIC Team technical director, Alessandro Tognelli said the point earned by the young rider in Catalunya arrived earlier than they had predicted.

“So there is absolutely no pressure on him to repeat a similar result in Germany. His target is still the same as before; learning tracks, bike and racing strategies. I’m confident because Sachsenring is in a way less demanding than Catalunya. Having said that, you never know because every circuit presents a new adventure for Zulfahmi to tackle, but he’s doing well. So, we’ll do our best and maybe he can give us another reason to smile. The same can be said about his companion, Sturla Fagerhaug. He, too, can fight for a good result, but he the summer’s high temperatures affects him greatly – probably because, coming from Norway, he’s not at all used to them. Some clouds shadowing the track would be welcomed,” he said.

text & pix: SIC

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