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Here’s how an Ampang boy became Southeast Asia’s first MotoGP racer

Who here is a Grand Prix motorcycle racing (a.k.a. MotoGP) fan? If you are, then you’re definitely one of the cool kids! But if you’re someone like this writer who has only seen the word MotoGP from news headlines, then you’re probably only familiar with mainstream names like Valentino Rossi

However, Malaysia does have her homegrown talents too. One notable name is Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah, who is the first Malaysian AND Southeast Asian to participate in the MotoGP race

Meet the man himself, Hafizh Syahrin. Img courtesy from UMW Grantt International

Hafizh has participated in various MotoGP races in the past years. The most recent race he participated in was the 2021 Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona! 

And this is all made possible by the sponsorship from many parties, one of them is UMW Grantt International. This is Hafizh’s second year receiving support from the manufacturer of Grantt Lubricants in his career as a MotoGP rider. 

But as with any legendary figures, Hafizh surely has to start his career somewhere, right?

 

It all began in a small workshop in Ampang…

As an 8-year-old, Hafizh used to spend a lot of time at his father’s workshop in Ampang, Selangor. 

“At that point we had no home! So I went to school from there, ate there, everything.” – Hafizh, in an interview with Monster Energy.

He started to take interest in pocket bike races, known as MiniGP when he was 9. Pocket bikes are basically really small motorbikes – they’re a quarter the size of a regular motorbike

So, a pocket bike race would look exactly like what you imagine a MotoGP would look like… only with teeny-tiny bikes.

We didn’t even have to look for funny pocket bike gifs… Gif from Gfycat

Hafizh and his father toured around Malaysia to participate in the MiniGP. They only traveled by car with his bike at the back of it, and even slept in the car instead of a hotel as they didn’t have enough money then. Seeing how difficult it was for him and his father to move about this way, Hafizh became determined to be a professional rider.

“I want to be a professional rider and I want to be the best rider in Malaysia.” – Hafizh, as quoted by Monster Energy.

Little did he know, he would soon be getting what he wished for. After participating in several pocket bike races, he eventually revealed his potential and talents on the racetrack. Not only did he conquer the racetrack by winning several races – earning him the title ‘King of Pocket Bikes’, he also caught the eyes of professional teams.

Soon, he was discovered by Barry Leong from the PETRONAS Raceline team, kickstarting his career as a professional rider with the PETRONAS Raceline team at the tender age of 13!

Barry (left) and Hafizh (middle). Img from naikmotor.com

 

He stepped in for a professional rider in MotoGP when he was just a ROOKIE!

Upon joining the PETRONAS team, he got to brush up on his skills by participating in several local and international championships. In 2007, and at an age where most of us just got the privilege of using a calculator in secondary school math class, Hafizh debuted in the Malaysian Cub Prix championship.

Aside from the Cub Prix, Hafizh also competed in the Asia Road Racing championship in 2010 against experienced riders. Although he debuted in the race at 12th place (out of 39 riders), he managed to finish fourth in the same series in 2011. And this made him the youngest rider to have ever done so!

Hafizh in action. Img courtesy from UMW International Grant

In 2012, he eventually made his debut in Moto2, a category under the MotoGP series. Despite being a wildcard, an entry oftentimes given to non-contracted riders, he made his way to fourth place

But his real zaman kegemilangan started in 2014 when he became a full-time Moto2 rider where he:

  • Ranked 19th with 42 points in his first Moto2 season (2014)
  • Finished 5th in the Japanese Grand Prix (2015)
  • Finished 4th in THREE Grands Prix – Qatar, Catalunya, and British (2016)
  • Ranked 9th in overall position, collecting 118 points (2016)
  • Ranked 10th in overall position, collecting 106 points (2017)

In fact, 2017 was said to be Hafizh’s most impressive year. As the national Moto2 rider, he even earned a new nickname: Pescao (meaning small fish), thanks to his riding skills in the rain. You can watch his skills in this video:

Seeing Hafizh’s achievements, Barry then decided to call up sponsors to get Hafizh into MotoGP. He thought to expand Hafizh’s horizon instead of letting him remain in the same class and series.

This was when Hafizh moved up to the premier class with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. What’s interesting with Hafizh’s debut in the MotoGP series was that he was still a rookie when he stepped in for professional rider Jonas Folger.

This in turn made Hafizh the first Malaysian MotoGP rider! MotoGP say wan ah, not us, ok?

 

UMW is fueling Hafizh’s journey as a professional MotoGP rider

Anas (second from left) and Hafizh (second from right) in the recent press statement about UMW’s collaboration with the Moto2 rider. Img courtesy from UMW

As Malaysia’s first MotoGP rider, Hafizh only faced more challenges to give his best performance on the racetrack. He fought hard for the Rookie of the Year and managed to take some incredible top tens in 2018.

However, as with any other regular human, he eventually saw a hiccup in his career. In the same year, for instance, he lost to another rider, Franco Morbidelli. And worst of all, he was involved in a crash while competing in the Austrian Motorcycle Grand Prix in 2020. Luckily, he survived it and is now back to racing.

Despite all these adversities, it seems like Hafizh is far from backing down. With support from local companies like UMW Grantt International, Hafizh aims to get back on track, although his focus in 2021 is leaning towards Moto2 instead of MotoGP.

His wishes were… Grantt-ed *ba dum tss*. Img from Motomalaya

See, UMW’s collaboration isn’t just focusing on providing Hafizh with necessary financial support but, according to Anas Nasrun Mohd Osman, Acting Director of UMW Manufacturing and Engineering Division…

“We’re excited to be involved in the development of the Malaysian motor industry. We’re providing our full support to Hafizh’s participation in the 2021 Moto2 Championship through this sponsorship.” – as quoted by Sinar Harian. Translated from BM.

This collaboration is also an opportunity for UMW to introduce Grantt Lubricants internationally. Sounds like a win-win situation, innit?

At least for Hafizh, who now races with the NTS RW Racing team, this collaboration really drives him to perform his best. He finished 9th place in the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, and it’s said to be his best achievement with the team so far.

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