The Malaysian Moto3 rider, Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin has marked fresh targets including podium finishes in the second half of the competition that will include the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit in October from 19th- 21st.
“I definitely aim to do well in Sepang. The Malaysian GP will undoubtedly be my top priority this season. I aim to make Malaysia proud and will give my very best for the local fans that have been very supportive throughout my career.”
“I sincerely hope that they can be there in Sepang to support me,” said the AirAsia-SIC-AJO rider, who will celebrate his 21st birthday that weekend.
A product of SIC’s innovative GP Wildcard programme in 2009, Zulfahmi’s rise in the World Championship has been admirable. Now, his performance in the Moto3 category with the new KTM machine has been exceptional by Malaysian standards.
Zulfahmi proved that he is a flourishing rider as he took the fastest place in one of the round where he qualified second in Catalunya. It was a great record for him as he is the first Malaysian rider who qualified in a pole position place in the World Championship.
He is the second Malaysian to compete in the World Championship after his mentor Shahrol Yuzy Ahmad Zaini in 1996. He started the new season with a storming performance at the Qatar Grand Prix where he was actually competing for third position before finally ending the race in ninth.
Fifth in free practice; qualifying in seventh and scoring his best ever finish at that point prompted rave reviews from the media. It also prompted AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes to post a highly-praising tweet which read “What a fantastic race by Zulfahmi. I hope this is a sign of what’s to come from him this season. In just three short years, Zulfahmi has developed from a wildcard entrant to a top 10 finisher. We are proud to be part of his growth and will continue in supporting his development. This is what dreams are about.” Zulfahmi’s comments on his performance, however, were brief.
“My team did once again a great job. The bike worked fine and this GP proved that during this season I have all the possibilities to fight for the first podium position of my career,” said Zulfahmi, who has now given confidence in Malaysians that a podium finish from the Malaysian rider is undoubtedly a realistic target and the victory is not impossible.
A partly wet Jerez circuit in Round 2 at the Spanish Grand Prix provided a different kind of challenge for Zulfahmi and this Malaysian rider showed plenty of maturity as he made his way from 28th place on the grid to finish 10th; putting him in an unprecedented sixth position in the World Championship standings.
Round 3 in Portugal saw the best of Zulfahmi as the Malaysian rider fought till the end; but had to be contended with fourth position, which has stayed until now as his highest finish in his GP career and this is the achievement where no other Malaysian had reached as yet. Third in the final lap, Zulfahmi fought until the end to be at podium; but he made a mistake and allowed Luis Salom to beat him at 1.157 seconds to take the final spot on the podium.
Despite Zulfahmi’s unhappiness, AirAsia-SIC-Ajo Racing Team Principal Aki Ajo was very proud of his effort; and commented: “It was simply a remarkable performance. The first podium was so close; but everything will come in time. I am sure that Zulfahmi will have many podium places in the future.”
SIC Chief Executive Officer Datuk Razlan Razali was equally thrilled. “Extremely ecstatic with Zulfahmi’s 4th place fighting for the final podium position; the podium will come. Amazing race! We are all very proud of him,” said Razlan.
In the following race at the French Grand Prix, Zulfahmi made a new mark as he temporarily led the wet race at Le Mans but fell from third place when there was only less than seven laps to the finish line. The wait for his first podium continues; but surely looking closer.
After nine rounds and conclusion of the first half of the season, Zulfahmi remained sixth in the World Championship with 66 points and just nine points behind fifth placed Alexis Masbou of France, who has 75 points with eight more races to go.
In his gallant efforts of maintaining that sixth position, Zulfahmi had taken Malaysian motorsports to new heights – starting from the front row in Catalunya, leading the GP race, and a sensational maneuver starting that even Dani Pedrosa – arguably the best starter in MotoGP – will be envious of.
Starting from seventh in Mugello, Zulfahmi dashed to the front to take the whole shot and take the lead, which he maintained for more than three laps before dropping to fifth when a bunch of riders passed him. Entering the eighth lap, the front group started to pull away; and then he ended the race in ninth place.
“I just didn´t have enough strength. I had a bad flu, which made it difficult to breath. It was good that I managed to get to the finish. I just have to be satisfied with this result. I found a good pace during the race and I will head to the second half of the season with a confident mind to make good results,” said Zulfahmi.
Now back home and enjoying a well-deserved break, Zulfahmi is all smiles and all charged up for the remaining season.
According to Zulfahmi during the event, Iftar with Moto3 rider at the Grand Dorsett Hotel Subang yesterday, “Podium is definitely a realistic target and I still have eight more races to achieve it.”
The event was attended by one of the SIC Board of Director,YB Dato’ Aini Hj Taib, accompanied by the sponsors to the young rider, media and also 20 lucky winners from Zulfahmi’s Official Facebook Fans.
“I am confident that the day will come for me to wave the Jalur Gemilang on the podium this season. Who knows, maybe in Sepang; or perhaps even earlier,” added Zulfahmi, who garnered 30 World Championship points last season in the 125cc World Championship to put him 18 overall.
This season, Zulfahmi and the whole of Malaysia, are realistically looking at a possible top 5 overall position in the overall standings of the new Moto 3 World Championship.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin – The 2012 Season So Far Current standings: 6th in the overall championship; 66 points after 9 rounds
April 8, 2012 Qatar Grand Prix, Losail: Finished 6th Qualified 7th
April 29, 2012 Spain Grand Prix, Jerez: Finished 10th Qualified 28th
May 6, 2012 Portugal Grand Prix, Estoril: Finished 4th Qualified 5th
May 20, 2012 France Grand Prix, Le Mans: Unfinished Qualified 10th
June 3, 2012 Catalunya Grand Prix, Catalunya: Finished 8th Qualified 2nd
June 17, 2012 British Grand Prix, Silverstone: Finished 9th Qualified 18th
June 30, 2012 Netherlands Grand Prix, Assen: Finished 11th Qualified 18th
July 8, 2012 Germany Grand Prix, Sachsenring: Finished 6th Qualified 20th
July 15 Italian Grand Prix, Mugello: Finished 9th Qualified 7th
Remaining Rounds of 2012 Season – 8 More Rounds To Go
August 19, 2012 Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Indianapolis
August 26, 2012 Grand Prix of Czech Republic, Brno
September 16, 2012 Grand Prix of San Marino, Misano
September 30, 2012 Grand Prix of Aragon, Motorland
October 14, 2012 Grand Prix of Japan, Motegi
October 21, 2012 Grand Prix of Malaysia, Sepang
October 28, 2012 Grand Prix of Australia, Phillip Island
November 11, 2012 Grand Prix of Valencia, Valencia
World Championship Standing - Top 15 After 9 Rounds
1. Sandro Cortese Germany, Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM Cortese 164 points
2. Maverick Vinales Spain, Blusens Avintia, FTR Honda 155 points
3. Luis Salom Spain, Kalex KTM 104 points
4. Romano Fenati Italy, Team Italia FMI, FTR Honda 85 points
5. Alexis Masbou France, Caretta Technology, Honda 75 points
6. Zulfahmi Khairuddin Malaysia, AirAsia-Sic-Ajo, KTM 66 points
7. Alex Rins Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0, Suter Honda 63 points
8. Louis Rossi France, FTR Honda 56 points
9. Niccolo Antonelli Italy, San Carlo Gresini Moto3, FTR Honda 55 points
10. Danny Kent Great Britain, Red Bull KTM Ajo, KTM 53 points
11. Efren Vazquez Spain, JHK Laglisse, FTR Honda 50 points
12. Hector Faubel Spain, Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3, Kalex KTM 44 points
13. Miguel Oliveira Portugal, Suter Honda 39 points
14. Arthur Sissis Australia, Red Bull KTM Ajo 38 points
15. Alberto Moncayo Spain, Kalex KTM 36 points