Hafizh Syahrin's move to MotoGP in place of Jonas Folger at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 is a step closer following news that countryman Zulfahmi Khairuddin has been hired for the Sepang Moto2 team.

Syahrin was due to be the sole rider for the Sepang-run Petronas Sprinta outfit in the intermediate class and - while no official announcement has yet been made - he now looks destined to become Malaysia's first MotoGP rider.

“Zulfahmi Khairuddin will now join us in Moto2 for 2018, which was a bit of a surprise because we had planned for Hafizh to be riding, but nevertheless we are prepared," stated team manager Johan Stigefelt.

"We have been working very hard for the last six months to prepare the Moto2 project and we have everything in place. We have very good people behind this project and this team.

"We will give Fahmi the best support and the best bike; I think he will be surprised how nice it is to ride a Moto2 bike.

"Of course it will be difficult too, it’s a tough Championship and it will require a lot of hard work from him but Fahmi feels confident and ready to take on this challenge. We will be there to help him prepare and support him throughout."

Khairuddin was a star of the inaugural 2012 Moto3 season, scoring two podiums and narrowly missing out on what would have been his country's first grand prix victory (an honour that later went to Khairul Idham Pawi).

After leaving grand prix at the end of 2015, Khairuddin switched to World Supersport (again with Sepang Circuit support), where he scored a podium in his home 2016 round but could only muster six points last season.

"On behalf of SIC, we are ecstatic to witness Zulfahmi racing with us once again under the SIC Racing Team banner in 2018," said Sepang CEO Dato’ Razlan Razali. "With his previous achievements in 2012, we hope Zulfahmi would relive history once again for Malaysia.

"Upon our deliberation, we feel that Zulfahmi would be the prime candidate to be placed in Moto2 as he has already been exposed to World Supersport Racing for the past 2 years. That valuable experience has given him a foundation in racing with a higher cc machine against international riders.

"Yes, it will be relatively tough for Zulfahmi going into transition to Moto2. But, we have faith that with the collective experience of each crew member in his new team, Zulfahmi would be able to achieve his targets and bring glory to Malaysia along with Moto3 rider, Adam Norrodin, as Malaysians racing in the world championship."

Khairuddin will get his first taste of the Kalex Moto2 machine on February 6, the start of a three-day official test at Valencia.

“It’s really great to have this opportunity. So, I would like to thank SIC, especially Dato’ Razlan for his continuous support and his belief in me," Khairuddin said. "I’m really excited to return to the MotoGP paddock.

"In Valencia, the focus will be on improving my feeling on the Moto2 bike and getting up to speed quickly.

"I don’t think it’s that bigger step for me from Supersport to Moto2; but for sure the competition will be hard and I have to do a lot more laps. I hope to get some good data in Valencia before we test the following week in Malaysia."