Tony Fernandes has lauded 'a great day' for Asia with the agreement of the title sponsorship contract between budget airline AirAsia and the British round of the 2010 MotoGP World Championship – as he predicted the announcement could signify a genuine breakthrough for the region in the sphere of motorsport.
AirAsia – which Lotus F1 team principal Fernandes founded eight years ago, since when it has gone on to grow into the world's largest and most successful low-coast carrier – concluded a three-year deal with the CEO of commercial rights-holder Dorna, Carmelo Ezpeleta, at Silverstone on Wednesday [see separate story – click here
], which will see it become the official partner of an event that is returning to the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' this year after more than two decades at Donington Park.
Not only that, but Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin – who competed as a wild-card entry for Yamaha in the Malaysian 125cc outing on the MotoGP calendar last October at Sepang – will be conducting a full campaign in the world championship in 2010 with Aprilia's Worldwide Race Team. It is, affirms Fernandes, an exciting time.
“It's a great day,” enthused the 45-year-old entrepreneur, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “I can't quite stop saying 'AirAsia British Grand Prix'! It's not something I would have imagined when I first started this airline. I think we have a lot of clout, and I think Dorna were very keen on having us because they saw the potential for doing a lot of things with AirAsia – when you carry 25 million people, obviously we are a strong brand in our part of the world and we can start to branch out and do lots more things with that.”
“What's even more important is that we're bringing some new blood into the sport, and it's great to see a young Malaysian kid who will perform for the whole season in 125cc – I hope that will inspire many more South-East Asian kids – Thais, Indonesians and so forth – to come through too.
“As I told Bernie [Ecclestone] and Max [Mosley] when I first got into the sport, motorsport is not really global yet – it's still European, even if MotoGP is a bit better [than F1]. We hopefully will play our little part in making it a bit more of a global sport.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE