Wednesday October 17, 2012
Zul aims to celebrate birthday with record point haul and podium finish
By LIM TEIK HUAT
KUALA LUMPUR: Moto3 rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin can look forward to a joyful birthday bash as he is likely to surpass a century of points in the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang on Sunday.
But the celebrations will not come any bigger than if he wins a first-ever career podium right in his own backyard.
With three rounds remaining, Zulfahmi, who will be 21 on qualifying day on Saturday, has amassed 92 points and an eighth placing on Sunday will be enough for him to hit the magical mark.
Zulfahmi had a challenging debut season in 125cc, learning all the curves of the MotoGP racing track around the world in 2010 and finished 24th overall with just four points.
The AirAsia SIC Ajo rider showed vast improvement in his second year to improve his position to 18th last year with a haul of 30 points but this year he has really soared with a new KTM factory bike as the GP125 class was substituted with a new 250cc-based Moto3 world championship.
“To be honest, I never thought I would be in this position before the start of the season. But now that I am, I want to work on achieving higher targets. If all goes well, I should get more than 100 points at the end of this weekend’s race,” said Zulfahmi, who took part in a laser tag game with the media that was organised by his sponsors AirAsia yesterday.
“Each time I start a race, the target is to finish as high as possible. A podium finish will be a bonus but it is tough based on the current competition.
“It’s very, very competitive and, realistically, a top-five finish is possible. But of course, I will seize any opportunities that come my way.
“It will be a celebration for my fans too if I get on the podium in my home race. They are hoping I can do it,” added Zulfahmi, who romped to fifth in the Japanese GP at Motegi last Sunday.
Zulfahmi finished seventh at last year’s Malaysian GP, the best-ever finish by a local rider but his historic feat was overshadowed by the fatal crash of Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli.
Zulfahmi pointed out that the grid is very competitive even though it’s the first year of Moto3.
“Unlike the GP125cc last year where there were usually five riders challenging for wins at every race, there are now about 10 riders every week challenging for a win,” he said.
“With such a big group at the front, you cannot choose your position ... whether to control the race from the front or keep close to the leaders and challenge for the lead at the tailend of the race.
“You need to grab any opportunity you have ... you see a gap, you take it.
“You cannot wait, sometimes, you could end up on the gravel bed. But that’s Moto3 racing for you,” added Zulfahmi, who has chalked up nine top 10 finishes out of 14 races so far, including a career best of fourth in Portugal in May.
Zulfahmi has shown his ability to jostle with the leading pack but there have been times when he miscalculated and slipped out of concention.
“Under current circumstances, I would prefer taking risks than adopting a safe approach and merely collecting championship points,” he said.
“I am happy with the approach I am taking now and I think the team’s also giving me full support on how I approach the races.”
Regardless of where he finishes, his presence alone is the reason why the Sepang International Circuit is optimistic of hitting a record of 70,000 spectators on race day.
How Zulfahmi has finished so far
Qatar Grand Prix (Losail): Qualified seventh, finished sixth.
Spanish Grand Prix (Jerez): Qualified 28th, finished 10th.
Portugal Grand Prix (Estoril): Qualified fifth, finished fourth.
France Grand Prix (Le Mans): Qualified 10th, did not finish.
Catalunya Grand Prix (Catalunya): Qualified second, finished eighth.
British Grand Prix (Silverstone): Qualified 18th, finished ninth.
Dutch Grand Prix (Assen): Qualified 18th, finished 11th.
Germany Grand Prix (Sachsenring): Qualified 20th, finished sixth.
Italian Grand Prix (Mugello): Qualified seventh, finished ninth.
Indianapolis Grand Prix (Indianapolis): Qualified seventh, finished ninth.
Czech Republic Grand Prix (Brno): Qualified third, did not finish.
San Marino Grand Prix (Misano): Qualified eighth, finished 11th.
Aragon Grand Prix (Motorland): Qualified seventh, did not finish.
Japanese Grand Prix (Motegi): Qualified fourth, finished fifth.