Sepang CEO Dato' Razlan Razali is about to see his dream of a Malaysian MotoGP rider become a reality.

Tomorrow in Thailand, Hafizh Syahrin will ride his very first MotoGP laps for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team.

And while it's yet to be officially announced that Syahrin will keep the seat vacated by Jonas Folger for 2018, it is considered a formality.

Razali has played a key role in securing the dream Tech3 chance and is present at Buriram to both support Syahrin and witness Malaysian history in the making.

Syahrin had been due to ride for Sepang's Moto2 team and the surprise MotoGP move has also opened up a golden opportunity for Zulfahmi Khairuddin to revive his grand prix career on the Kalex machine...

Crash.net:

Razlan, it's been an incredible few weeks for Malaysian motorsport…

Razlan Razali:

You know, in our culture we have a belief in blessings and luck. This is something that falls upon Hafizh and Fahmi. You can plan as best you can and work as hard as you can, do everything, but sometimes you need an element of chance for things to happen.

So it's an opportunity for Hafizh to be in MotoGP one year earlier and it's also an opportunity for Fahmi to revive his career.

It's an unreal situation - Hafizh going to MotoGP as the first South East Asian rider, Fahmi in Moto2 and Malaysians in every grand prix category. Now it's all up to them. The opportunity has been presented to them and they have to make the best of it.

Crash.net:

Just about everyone thinks Hafizh is riding for the team in the 2018 season, but at the moment only this test has been officially confirmed?

Razlan Razali:

I think the best response would be from Herve [Poncharal, team manager] himself. All I can say is that we look forward for Hafizh to race in the first round in March. That's the best that I can comment at the moment. There are certain agreements we need to respect, so we just need to sit back and take it one step at a time. But everyone is looking forward for Hafizh to be on the grid in the first round.

Crash.net:

The very first step for Hafizh in MotoGP begins here tomorrow, what do you expect from him?

Razlan Razali:

I don't expect much, his job here is basically to have a lot of laps on the track. The first thing is to understand the bike. Already there are a lot of things, especially electronics, for him to learn. The seamless gearbox is different - the whole bike is different from Moto2. Hafizh missed the first test of the year in Sepang so he needs to learn very, very quickly in these next few days.

From my conversation with the team, they understand the situation, they are aware what is going on, they know what to expect. Herve is very good in helping the mindset of everybody, given the situation. Both Hafizh and myself have had a call from Herve just before we came here to say, 'take it easy, don't be nervous, be calm, one step at a time, don't be a hero and try to go too fast'.

So we'll take it slowly and step-by-step. That's the best way.

At the end of the day, if had we continued with our plan this year and Hafizh had achieved what was targeted for Moto2, then he would have moved up to MotoGP in 2019 and so he would have had to go through this same learning process next year. So everything that is happening is what was in the plan for Hafizh, it's just that it has been shortened by one year.

Crash.net:

You've been talking at length with members of the Tech 3 team here today, what are you trying to learn?

Razlan Razali:

I'm here to seek advice from the team and other MotoGP friends about what we can do to further help Hafizh, to make him more comfortable and also understand fully what are the expectations for a MotoGP rider.

There is a lot more to it than just racing. You've got sponsors commitments, fitness is very important week-in, week-out.

So I am here to help him and provide him with the best tools and equipment, so he can be comfortable and really focussed. Even to the extent of, should he bring his wife? We will have to sit down and talk!

Also we can't forget that this is a moment in history for us. I even spoke to Dorna to document Hafizh's first ride, because we’ve never had a Malaysian or South East Asian rider on a MotoGP bike. Period.

So it's important for us to document it and for me to be here to witness it first-hand. I'm a little nervous but I'm looking forward to it.

Crash.net:

How quickly did everything fall into place?

Razlan Razali:

When I spoke with you last year about our efforts to have a rider in MotoGP, we had spoken to various teams - like LCR, Suzuki. Herve is someone who is very familiar in the paddock, also he is president of IRTA, so occasionally I would chat with him for advice on going to MotoGP and so on.

Essentially, during the Sepang test, I was seeking his advice on planning for the future. For 2019. We had some meetings, one thing lead to another, then we sat down in my office and Herve said 'let's put Hafizh Syahrin in MotoGP'. I literally had goosebumps!

Dorna said they would support it. Herve told me Yamaha Japan is happy with the choice of Hafizh, from a list of names presented to them. So it all happened very quickly. When I got that news I called Hafizh straight away, he was actually training in Barcelona at the time.

Hafizh said, 'what's up?' and I said, 'I've got a MotoGP rider for you this year, do you want it?' And immediately he said, 'yes'. No hesitation. Who wouldn't, right? It's every young boy's dream to one day ride in MotoGP and now it's about to happen for him.

So now it's all up to him. He needs to focus, work hard and listen. MotoGP is a big leap from Moto2, all of the riders are strong. Hafizh has to really adapt himself to the team and bike and do well. This is just the beginning.

Crash.net:

How big a deal will it be to have a home MotoGP rider at the Malaysian Grand Prix?

Razlan Razali:

For Malaysian Motorsports and the Malaysian MotoGP, it's huge. Everybody recognises that the Malaysian MotoGP has grown tremendously over the years and last year we won the 'Best Grand Prix' again, for the second time.

And now to have a rider in every category… it's going to packed, a full house. More than 100,000 on race day. It'll be unbelievable. I'm just happy for the sport, for Dorna and of course the event that we get such a reception at home.

 

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