14 April 2010
KUCHING: Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin made his debut for Team AirAsia-Sepang International Circuit in the Qatar Grand Prix 125cc race at Losail International Circuit in Doha on Sunday, completing the 18-lap race in 21st position out of 26 riders on the grid.
In a press release issued in Sepang, Zulfahmi’s team manager Fiorenzo Caponera said he was pleased with his charge’s debut.
“It was his first race and his very first night race. Our target for him is to finish the race and he did it. Throughout the weekend, he had exceeded our expectation, especially with his qualifying results,” said Caponera.
He stressed that it was important for Zulfahmi to complete the races and that would be the priority for now.
“This is the first time on race day that Zulfahmi is riding on an Aprilia and we need to gather as much data as possible in order to analyse his strengths and weaknesses.
“With all the information, we will then be able to guide him and work on his weak points as we need to get the best out of him as soon as we can.
“He has very minimal experience on the 125cc machine compared with his teammate Sturla Fagerhaug who has two years’ experience racing in the Red Bull Rookies Cup,” said Caponera.
Despite positive comments from Caponera, 18-year-old Zulfahmi was a little disappointed with his finish.
“I was hoping to collect points but it was a bit difficult as I have yet to be familiar with the bike’s characteristics, plus the other riders have plenty of experience. Nevertheless, I am not discouraged. I enjoy the challenge and I really look forward to the next race in Japan,” said the Selangor-born rider.
On what he learned from his first race, Zulfahmi said: “I was over anxious in the beginning of the race and that affected my rhythm as the race progressed. Hence, I need to develop ways to keep calm and focused.
“I need to work on my mental strength as well, as MotoGP is a gruelling sport which demands complete psychological prowess.”
Before Zulfahmi went on the grid, AirAsia Group CEO Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes spoke to him on the phone.
He gave Zulfahmi a few words of encouragement and wished him the best of luck for his very first race.
When contacted, Fernandes said: “The MotoGP will definitely present tough challenges to Zulfahmi, but we have all the faith in him. Despite finishing in 21st place in Qatar, he displayed true grit and the hunger for victory.”
“He is a very talented rider, and I am confident that he will overcome all challenges and be a serious contender in no time.
“Asean talents like Zulfahmi have the technical competency and the mindset to compete, and with opportunities like this, they can definitely take on the best in the world,” he added.
AirAsia partners Sepang International Circuit (SIC) in forming Team AirAsia-Sepang International Circuit to showcase Asean talents on the world stage.
The team believe Asean has a lot of untapped motorsports talents, but limited opportunities are available to help them shine. This joint effort hopes to provide the platform for these talents to unleash their potential.
AirAsia is also the title sponsor of the 2010 AirAsia British Grand Prix at Silverstone, bringing back MotoGP to the circuit after 24 years away.
AirAsia’s sponsorship is set to deliver added verve to the sport by lending its successful, innovative and passionate traits.
Moreover, as a fast-rising global brand, the airline’s association with MotoGP is expected to stir further interest in the sport not just among motorsports fans but the wider community throughout Asia.