KUALA LUMPUR: After retiring 16 years ago, legendary Malaysian rider Shahrol Yuzy Ahmad Zaini admits that he can now sport a big smile after Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah succeeded in his quest to compete in the premier MotoGP championship with team Monster Yamaha Tech3 for the coming season.
The former rider who retired from the competitive arena in 2002, said that he is grateful for grassroots programmes such as the Cub Prix series which has become an important platform which helped to unearth hidden talents such as that of Hafizh.
Shahrol Yuzy who is Malaysia’s first rider to race on the world stage said: “I was always hoping and praying that he would bet a slot to race in MotoGP and at the same time, as Malaysians we should be happy and proud because we have a fellow Malaysian who has represented the country with distinction at each and every level of motorcycle racing, from Moto3 to Moto2 and now the premier class of MotoGP.
"This shows us that we do have riders that have what it takes to showcase their racing pedigree and potential not just in Southeast Asia but the Asian continent. We are now almost on par with European countries such as Spain and Italy who have riders racing in every class.
"As a former rider, I am of course very proud of Hafizh and this is what I want to see after I retired from racing. For me the emergence of new talent actually first happened at Cub Prix where budding young riders under the age of 13 can develop and hone their skills in the Wira class.
"This has enabled us to produce riders, and if compared to my time those days, it was difficult to nurture and develop talent because there were no real avenues for budding young riders to hone and showcase their skills and talent, which meant those who had what it takes and could breakthrough were late bloomers, unlike Hafizh who at a young age already has four years of competitive riding experience in Moto2. Khairul Idham Pawi is another good example.
"So the platform that we have in place right now is quite good."
Hafizh talents began to develop in 2007 during his first foray in Cub Prix before he graduated to the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) from 2010 to 2012.
Spreading his growing wings, Hafizh then went on to compete in the Moto2 class in 2011 and 2012 on a ‘wild card’ entry under Petronas, even making it to the podium against all odds at the 2012 Malaysian MotoGP edition after finishing third when Australian Anthony West was disqualified for a doping offense.
Hafizh then kept on moving up by joining Moto2 full time in 2014 until last year where he finished the season in 10th overall which included two podium finishes in San Marino and Japan.
Now that Hafizh is with team Monster Yamaha Tech3 in MotoGP’s premier class, his debut season at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing begins with official testing at the Buriram International Circuit in Thailand come February 16.