Amirul Hafiq Azmi in action during the Moto3 pre-season testing at Valencia which finished on Thursday. - Gareth Harford
PETALING JAYA: It’s all about the bike. At the end of the three-day Moto2 and Moto3 tests on Thursday, none of the Malaysian riders managed to clock impressive times at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia.
Dogged by problems, including delay in engine shipment to using the 2013 bike, Moto2 riders Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman and Moto3 riders Amirul Hafiq Azmi and Zulfahmi Khairuddin finished the test in the bottom half of the table.
In Moto3, world championship debutant Hafiq outperformed seasoned compatriot Zulfahmi by finishing 18th fastest in 1:40.734 – 1.280 seconds slower than fastest man Niccolo Antonelli of Italy.
Zulfahmi, whose career best in the world meet was the seventh placing he achieved two years ago, could only post the 30th fastest time after three days on 1:41.973.
This comes as no surprise because Hafiq was on board the world championship-winning bike KTM, while Zulfahmi moved on to Honda.
Winds up to 40kph at the final day prevented Hafiq from improving on his time, but it would be a good basis for the team ahead of the second test at Jerez next Tuesday.
“I have a good feeling on the bike, which is good, but I’m not too happy with the lap times. I know I can improve my riding and be faster,” said the 18-year-old Hafiq.
Meanwhile, Zulfahmi only received the 2014 engine on the final day of testing after bad weather delayed its shipment from Honda’s headquarters in Japan.
He managed 72 laps on the final day with the new engine, giving his engineers the much-needed data ahead of the test in Jerez.
“The chassis is very good but there are still lot of improvements needed especially on the engine. We still lack the acceleration compared to the KTM. Fortunately, Honda and the team are working very hard to improve before the first round of the championship in Qatar next month (March 23)”, said Zulfahmi.
On paper, it would a be tough task for Honda to topple KTM’s domination as the best-placed Honda rider on the timesheet thus far is Alex Rins in 10th spot. Even the India-based Mahindra bike was quicker, with Miguel Oliveira posting the ninth fastest time.
Meanwhile, Hafizh was the best Malaysian performer in Moto2 after concluding the test in 22nd spot on 1:36.886 – 1.731secs slower than leading man Esteve Rabat of Spain. Azlan, was not far off in 24th spot on 1:36.955.
While world championship debutant Hafizh got to ride the 2014 Kalex machine, Azlan had to resort to the 2013 version as Kalex supply only 14 riders in the championship. Azlan’s best time was far off from Idemitsu Honda Team Asia team-mate Takaaki Nakagami, who finished third fastest on 1:35.337.
“I’ve been told the latest version is slightly more precise but the 2013 version is good enough for me as the target is to finish every race in the top 15,” said Azlan.
“Nakagami has been listed as one of the title favourites this year, so it’s understandable that he needs the superior machine. Nevertheless, this does not dampen my spirit to deliver my very best,” said Azlan.