Upon signing Xavi Vierge for Sepang's new second Moto2 entry, team principal Razlan Razali added they are 'hoping' Khairul Idham Pawi will be 'fully recovered and racing alongside Xavi next season'.

Pawi shot to stardom as Malaysia's first grand prix winner during his rookie 2016 Moto3 campaign, before being fast-tracked to Moto2 by Honda Team Asia.

The outcome was only 11 points over the next two years, before a move to his home Sepang team for a fresh start in 2019. But a nasty finger injury after just three races (best finish of 13th) has wrecked Pawi's season.

The damage initially required a 'partial amputation', with the 20-year-old then undergoing further surgery after being forced to abandon a return to action at Brno last month.

While Mattia Pasini, Jonas Folger, Bradley Smith and Adam Norrodin have all taken turns as Pawi's replacement, fellow Malaysian Norrodin - who spent three seasons in Moto3 with Sepang before being moved to the CEV Moto2 series - could now keep the seat for the rest of this year.

Crash.net spoke to Razlan Razali at Misano to find out more…

Crash.net:

Is the intention still to have Pawi alongside Vierge next year, if he's fit?

Razlan Razali:

"The plan is to have Pawi next to Xavi, and for him to try and beat his team-mate. But unfortunately Pawi's recovery is taking longer than expected. It's a severe injury so it's not as easy to recover from as a normal injury.

"That's why we replaced him with Adam this weekend. And at the moment it doesn't look very good for [Pawi] to finish the season. Even if he came back in Thailand or Japan, he's been out for more than ten races. So whether it's a good idea for him to come back or not is something we are still considering. But I have my reservations that he will finish the season."

Crash.net:

Does the injury cause pain when riding or is the problem a lack of grip?

Razlan Razali:

"Physically he can't grip properly and, like we saw in Brno, a slight twist of the bike… he was nearly hit by a KTM so [the reaction] shifted his grip and worsened his injury even more."

Crash.net:

Are the Doctors confident Pawi will be fully fit by next year?

Razlan Razali:

"I think the best situation for him is to take time and recover fully, rather than come back prematurely and worsen the injury. Because again, even if he comes back, what for? The championship's over. So I'd rather have continuity with Adam for the next seven races and see where he's at.

"We have the flexibility, whether we want to continue with Adam or continue with Pawi or even move Pawi down to Moto3. That's a possibility."

Crash.net:

So you are not in a rush to fill the other Moto3 seat alongside John McPhee?

Razlan Razali:

"No. Because we have the grid slot, we are not dependent on any [specific] rider. It's reserved for our local riders, so we have the flexibility."

Xavi Vierge with Sepang team manager Johan Stigefelt.

'Desperate to improve in Moto2'

The Sepang team won its first Moto3 race with McPhee this season and is enjoying a dream debut year in MotoGP courtesy of four podiums and three poles by rookie star Fabio Quartararo.

Bradley Smith has also taken MotoE podiums and is third overall for Sepang in the MotoE standings, which leaves the Moto2 project as something of a 'weak link'.

"We wanted a rider that is competitive and fast," Razali said of Vierge. "What's important is that he has that speed because - I don’t mind saying this - we are in a desperate situation to improve in Moto2. We need some success. Moto2's the weak link at the moment."

Should Vierge, who has taken three rostrums and eight front-row starts since 2015, lift Sepang to frequent podiums next season he would also put himself in the shop window for a Petronas Yamaha ride if Quartararo or Franco Morbidelli move on in 2021.

"The first step is podiums. It's something we desperately need in Moto2," Razali said. "Of course, if Xavi gets podiums and he's up there in the world championship standings, anything is possible for him in 2021.

"Although it's a yearly contract, if he can grow with us as a top rider in Moto2, it only makes sense for us to continue with him in MotoGP. But again, we expect a lot for someone to take that leap to MotoGP. So he knows the deal."

'Working hard to get Hafizh a place'

Had Vierge not left Tech3's Moto2 team at the end of 2017 he would have been first-in-line to replace Jonas Folger when the German quit what was then Yamaha's satellite team.

That MotoGP opportunity instead went to Hafizh Syahrin, but the Malaysian now looks set to drop back to Moto2 next season after losing the Tech3 (KTM) ride to Brad Binder.

Razali, also CEO of the Sepang Circuit, is still "working very hard to get Hafizh a [Moto2] place.

"We are talking to one or two teams. Putting my Sepang Circuit hat on, we will do whatever is possible to make sure that he stays in the world championship.

"It's not the end of the world for Hafizh" to step back to Moto2, "he needs to come back strong."

One ride Syahrin is already confirmed for is alongside Morbidelli and Michael van der Mark in the home team's line-up for December's inaugural Sepang 8 Hour endurance race.

 

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