Having personally overseeing the fitness programme for GP rider Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin in preparation of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend, Dato Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali firmly believes the young Malaysian could produce another commendable result at Estoril.
Razlan, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Sepang International Circuit (SIC), said that he was very impressed Zulfahmi’s dedication and commitment in keeping himself fit in Malaysia while waiting for the commencement of Round 3 of the MotoGP 125 World Championship in Portugal.
“It was indeed a very long break after Jerez following the postponement of the Japanese Grand Prix … it was almost four weeks; and it was important for the riders to keep to their fitness programme when the championship resumes in Estoril.
“I am happy with Fahmi’s fitness … he worked very hard in training. He kept himself fit by competing in cycling events right here in Malaysia. At times, we go to the gym together and run together. For me, it’s a very good arrangement … it’s good for bonding between a rider and his sponsor,” said the 39-year old fitness fanatic Razlan, who occasionally competes in marathon and mountain bike races.
After scoring his best result in his young GP career by finishing 10th at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, Zulfahmi – who is riding for AirAsia SIC Ajo Racing and in his second season this year – headed for home following the postponement of the Japanese Grand Prix. Originally scheduled for April 23 and postponed due to the devastating tsunami that hit Japan last month, the race in Motegi has now been slotted for October.
Estoril, which hosted the penultimate round last season, would now, instead, hosts the third round of the 2011 season this weekend. The 2010 race was won by Ajo Racing’s Marc Marques who went on to win the world crown. Zulfahmi finished in 15th place.
Razlan said: “I think Fahmi is very excited about Estoril. He’s on the back of a very good result; and I hope that he could carry the momentum to Estoril. Weather forecast says that it would be raining in Estoril this weekend and I am told that it has been raining in Estoril … this indeed would work well for Fahmi.
“Fahmi had proven that he’s a better rider in the wet. He showed that in Jerez; and he showed that last year in Estoril by winning one world championship point,” he said while acknowledging that the Jerez success could also posed as an added pressure on the young Malaysia.
“Yes, it could be an added pressure for Fahmi. Naturally, the fan’s expectation will increase because of the excellent result in Jerez. But, in any race, there’s always pressure. I am confident that Fahmi can handle it well … he is a far better rider as compared to last year.
“This was personally told to me by Aki,” said Razlan in reference to Aki Ajo, the team owner of Ajo Motorsports, which is providing technical support for AirAsia SIC Ajo Racing Team, and a personal riding coach to Zulfahmi at the races.
“Aki came to Sepang for the recent F1 race here. And, he told me that Fahmi is a far better rider now … he’s very discipline, very hardworking and fully committed to the training programme. Aki was happy with Fahmi, whom he said had very good attitude and a very good future.
“But, Aki felt that Fahmi would need at least another year or two of competitive racing to put him on par and to compete with the other top riders … some of the other 125 riders may be younger than Fahmi; but they have been competing at that level much longer than him,” added Razlan.
Picked up from the PETRONAS Malaysian Cub Prix championship, Fahmi first competed as a GP125 wildcard rider at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2009 before becoming a full season rider in the following year with AirAsia SIC Racing Team, which then had Italian-based Ongetta I.S.P.A. Racing providing the technical support.
The Malaysian team shifted to Ajo Racing this season to give Zulfahmi better support this season as new targets were set for the Malaysian rider to better his 2010 season haul of four world championship points and to consistently finish in the top 15.
Zulfahmi, who is leaving for Portugal today, yesterday said that the result at Jerez has spurred him to work harder and that he was looking forward to the race in Estoril.
While hoping that Zulfahmi could match his achievement in Jerez at the Portuguese Grand Prix this Sunday, Razlan said he would be happy if his young charge manages to place himself in the top 15 at Estoril.
“Irrespective of his results in Jerez, Estoril will only be his third race of the season and his third race with Ajo … he just need to place himself in the top 15 and improve on his result last year,” said Razlan.
In his comments, Group CEO of AirAsia Berhad, Dato’ Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes said: “We were extremely proud of his result in Jerez and we hope that he will give us another outstanding performance in Portugal this weekend. Fahmi does not only represent himself or the team but also Malaysia as the whole nation is rooting for him everytime he races.
“His performance have definitely improved and he is now closer to realizing his dream. We at AirAsia are glad that we are part of his journey to making his dream come true. Fahmi is a true testament of a person who dared to dream the impossible, believe the unbelievable and never take no for an answer.
“We wish him all the best in the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril,” Fernandes said in a statement.