Written by speedfight   
Monday, 20 September 2010 19:45


In another landmark move in Malaysian motorsports, Sepang International Circuit (SIC) is spearheading a second MotoGP Wildcard programme that will see a local rider competing at the new Moto2 class at the upcoming 2010 Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix from October 8 to 10.

The entry was made possible through another close collaboration by SIC, Two Wheels Motor Racing, PETRONAS and Japanese chassis provider Moriwaki, which came to Sepang Circuit recently for a development test and provided Asian Road Racing Championship (ARRC) rider Mohd Zamri Baba the unique experience to test the Moto2 bike, along with his PETRONAS Sprinta Yamaha team-mate Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman.


“I am proud to announce that Zamri will be accorded the wildcard ticket to compete in the Moto2 race at the Malaysian GP,” Razlan told a joint press conference in Sepang today with Ron Hogg of Two Wheels Motor Racing and Puan Anita Azrina Abdul Aziz of PETRONAS Motorsports.


“I would say that this is a beginning of a new partnership between the local parties and Moriwaki. With this brilliant start, we would continue to initiate long term plans for further development of the Malaysian Motorsport.

“This is a strong indication of goodwill and long term partnership and the proposal from Moriwaki  for a wildcard seat in the Moto2 is an offer that are too good to refuse,” said Razlan, whose views was further echoed by Ron.

In an unprecedented move, SIC and its partners – TWMR, PETRONAS, Dunlop, Moto Milia, Motorsports Association of Malaysia, AAM and the Youth and Sports Ministry - brokered the inaugural GP Wildcard Programme last year which saw Elly Idzlianizar Ilias and Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin granted wildcard entries to compete in the 125cc at the 2009 Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Their performance exceed expectations with both riders finishing in the top 20 and Zulfahmi eventually securing support to compete in a full season in the MotoGP 125cc world championship with AirAsia Sepang International Circuit Racing Team.

Ron said: “Last year in the 2009 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, we witnessed two Cub Prix riders, Elly Idzlianizar Ilias and Mohd Zulfahmi Khairuddin in action for the GP125cc category. This year, things will be slightly different and more interesting as Malaysian will get to see one wildcard rider participating in the newly Moto2 category at the Malaysian GP.

“Even though, there are no wildcard entries in the GP125cc but many parties pull in the effort together to ensure Malaysia get a wildcard slot for the Moto2.

“It was a very last minute deal as things for Moto2 in the first year was very difficult from all the aspect. We didn’t give up but we look into every prospect that came along the way. I am glad that everything happens at the right place and right time,” said Ron, who is  TWMR Promotions Director.

He went on to explain, “We had a very strong contact with Moriwaki, the chassis builder  and the opportunity arises when they came to SIC for testing in preparation for their wildcard entry in Sepang.

“We were thankful to be given the chance to test out the machine and the best Malaysian SuperSports 600cc riders in the PETRONAS Asia Road Racing Championship, Mohd Zamri Baba and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman took the opportunity even though a very short notice was given to them for the trial out.”

“I must say that with the exposure that Zamri and Azlan gather in the PETRONAS AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championship and PETRONAS ARRC, they were physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to put on a good outing during the testing session.

“With only three years racing in the SuperSports 600cc category, they had shown maturity in their riding as they set impressive lap time despite getting a feel of the Moto2 machine for the first time,” he added.   

According to Ron, “The test we did just before Hari Raya was only for our riders to get a feel of the Moto2 machine and it wasn’t plan for our participation in the Moto2 wildcard. The opening came in after the test and at the same time, Moriwaki were given a wildcard spot in Montegi and they gave the Malaysian wildcard ticket to us.”

“Therefore with a short period of time, we managed to work it all out with a tight budget to put a Malaysian rider in the Moto2 wildcard entry and this is not made possible without the support of PETRONAS, Hong Leong Yamaha and SIC,” he concluded.

Introduced this year, the Moto2 replaced the GP250cc class and runs on 600cc engines.

Explaining further on the wildcard programme, Razlan said: “When Moriwaki wrote in for a test for their rider few weeks ago, SIC were willing to accommodate provided that the team allows our Malaysian riders to test. SIC will support any initiative that includes the development of Malaysian Motorsport.

“During the test, Ron and I explored with the team owner, Midori Moriwaki, the possibility of a future collaboration to develop motorsport in Malaysia. This last minute offer of a ride in the Moto2 is the beginning of this collaboration with Moriwaki and it is a tremendous opportunity that cannot be missed.

“No matter how late or rushed a deal is, SIC is committed and obligated to support any Malaysian to the world championship.

“It will be a fantastic and unprecedented Malaysian MotoGP come October with a local representative in the 125cc by Fahmi and now Zamri Baba in the moto2. We expect a full support of the Malaysian motorsport fans to make the 20th edition of Malaysian MotoGP the biggest ever."

For Zamri, it was a lifelong dream that finally came through and a perfect incentive for him after his sensational performance scoring the first victory for Malaysia this season at the just concluded Round 4 of the Asian Road Racing Championship in Madras.

“Now, with having two Malaysian riders on the grid for the Malaysian GP next month, I am even more confident that we would be able to woo in an even bigger crowd for this year’s race,” said Razlan in reference to Zamri joining compatriot Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who would be competing in the 125cc class.

Sepang will be hosting Round 15 of the MotoGP world championship from October 8 to 10; and are offering tickets as low as RM30 for fans to enjoy top class entertainment on and off track at the 2010 Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

For local fans, it would be a rare opportunity to see their own local hero Zulfahmi and now Zamri to test their skills with the world best apart from catching the other top Malaysian riders in action at the support races.   

The entry of Zulfahmi and Elly at the Malaysian GP last year had been regarded as the key factor in wooing the crowd at 2009 race, which recorded the highest Race Day attendance of more than 59,000 spectators.

“What can I say … things just happened and we were rewarded by our untiring efforts. I would definitely like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow partners in this wildcard programme – AirAsia, Two Wheels Motor Racing and PETRONAS,” said Razlan, who was actually working to have a Malaysian wildcard rider in the Moto2 for next year’s Malaysian GP.

“The programme for next year’s Moto2 wildcard ticket will definitely continue … what we will have this year is a bonus,” added Razlan, who is the event director for the 2010 Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Under the 2011 plan, SIC had offered to the top three finishers in the 600cc Supersports Championship in the Malaysian Super Series a seat for a selected group for a final selection for the wildcard ticket in the Moto2.

Though both the MSS Supersports Championship and Moto2 run on 600cc machines, the two series are very different especially for Zamri who runs a 600cc Yamaha R6 in the MSS and the ARCC. Introduced this year to replace the world 250cc championship, Moto2 runs on bikes with engines provided by a single manufacturer from Honda Racing Corporation.

Commenting on their Moto2 test, both Zamri and Azlan agreed that the Moto2 bike is even more challenging that their Yamaha R6 bikes that they rode in the ARRC and the MSS Supersport Championship.

While acknowledging the difference in the behavior and characteristics of the Moto2 and his R6 machine, Zamri, who failed in his bid to win the 125cc wildcard ticket last year,  said he truly enjoyed his day-long test on the Honda-powered bike and that he was looking forward to challenge in winning the wildcard ticket offered by SIC next year.

With two more rounds to go in the ARRC, both Zamri and Azlan are currently locked in third placing with 87 points; trailing Thailand’s Decha Kraisart by 21 points. Another Thai rider , Chalermpol Polamai, is second with 90 points. In the MSS Supersports Championship, both Zamri and Azlan trails Suhadi Ali Rahmat of Honda Idemitsu Racing Team.