Sunday October 21, 2012
Moto3 rider celebrates birthday by taking pole in Sepang
ZULFAHMI Khairuddin celebrated his 21st birthday in exhilarating style yesterday – by becoming the first Malaysian to take pole position in the World Motorcycle Championship at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC).
The AirAsia-SIC-Ajo rider clinched his maiden pole in the Moto3 race of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix here.
The Banting-born youngster clocked 2:13.885 to put him ahead of Jonas Folger (2:14.151) and championship leader Sandro Cortese (2:14.599).
It was a special occasion for the Malaysian, who is in his second season of the world championship, as he created history on his home race at the Sepang.
“I feel very happy with the pole position as we had been aiming for it since coming here for the Malaysian GP. I was not thinking about a birthday present but this is certainly the best gift.
“Now it is time to get that podium finish. It will be a tough race but I feel confident as the team have done wonders with the bike.
“In the morning we were concerned about the suspensions but that was sorted out for the afternoon session and we had a good ride out there. I am hoping to keep up the good work on race day and God willing we will get on to the podium,” said Zulfahmi.
The Malaysian’s best grid position previously was a second place in the Spanish GP in May.
Mapfre Aspar Team’s Folger, who had been the quickest rider in the practice sessions, encountered traffic on his final lap and just missed out on pole. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Cortese also suffered a similar fate on his hot lap and had to settle for third place. The duo will start on the front row with Zulfahmi.
Racing Team Germany’s Louis Rossi was fourth fastest and will start on the second row with Estrella Galicia’s Miguel Oliveira lining up next to him in fifth. JHK Laglisse’s Efren Vazquez completes the second row in sixth place.
Zulfahmi is seventh in the overall standings and a first podium finish today could edge him closer to a top five finish for the season.
After Sepang, the last two races are in Australia and Valencia.
“I do not want to look further than the race day here at Sepang. I want to take one step at a time and now the time has come to make the podium. I have the front row and it is how I ride it out that counts. As I said it is going to be a tough race and if the bike settings are as good as today than I feel confident of doing well,” said Zulfahmi.
Meanwhile, SIC Chief Executive Officer Datuk Razlan Razali said that it was a proud day for Malaysian motorsport as Zulfahmi has shown that locals can do well at the world stage.
“Of course I would like to wait for tomorrow (today) and celebrate a podium finish. But that does not take away the gloss of this achievement as no Malaysian has ever taken pole position in a world championship.
“Zulfahmi has made us proud. I want to congratulate him and also wish him happy birthday as he has made this day a memorable one for all Malaysians,” said Razlan.
And that should see a deluge of fans at Sepang today especially as all grandstand tickets have been snapped up by fans.
“We are expecting a big crowd, probably around 70,000. So it is the perfect setting for a Malaysian to made the podium.”