Hafizh set to be Malaysia’s first Moto GP rider

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epa06489330 (18/23) Malaysian teenager Harith Haziq, 13, (front) the youngest candidate, is trailed through a corner by Zulfahmi Khairuddin, the project leader and mentor of the Dream Towards the MotoGP (Impian ke MotoGP) program at Sepang International Circuit, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 14 January 2018. The program picks the most talented young motorcycle riders for professional training, and while they are way too young to hold a legal license, they are allowed to race on track and pull the throttle to reach speeds of up to 212 km per hour. Some 300 young riders aged from 13 to 15 years old will be in the program for at least three years, with the hope they grow into Malaysian champions in the CEV, Moto3, Moto2 and even MotoGP. EPA-EFE/AHMAD YUSNI ATTENTION: For the full PHOTO ESSAY text please see Advisory Notice epa06489312

PETALING JAYA: Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah looks set to be the first Malaysian rider to compete in the MotoGP.

It is understood that the Yamaha Tech3 team management has settled on Hafizh out of a few candidates.

Hafizh should be in the Tech3 Yamaha outfit for the 2018 MotoGP season, making him the pride of the South-East Asian region as the first to race in the top flight of the world championship.

The 24-year-old would get the chance to learn the ropes alongside French teammate Johann Zarco, who won the Moto2 world title in 2015 and 2016.

The Yamaha-powered team did well last year with Zarco bringing home three podium finishes – two second and one third placing – in his rookie season.

Tech3 have been in a frantic search for a new rider after German Jonas Folger was ruled out due to health problems.

An official announcement could come from the team as early as today.

The Selangor-born Hafizh has been a Moto2 regular since 2014 and boasts three podium finishes in his career so far.

He was promoted to third in the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang in 2012 after Australian Anthony West was banned for a doping offence.

Hafizh made a name for himself by finishing second in San Marino and third in the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi last year.

Former world championship rider Shahrol Yuzy said it would be a historic achievement for Malaysia to have a local rider for MotoGP.

“It’s a big thing for Malaysian motorsports. Who would have thought that we’ll have someone making it to a competitive MotoGP team.

“It’s not easy as there are restrictions on the number of entries for MotoGP nowadays.