Amirul Hafiq Azmi of Team SIC-Ajo resting in the pit during the Moto3 testing in Valencia, which ended on Thursday.
PETALING JAYA: Amirul Hafiq Azmi is like a rough diamond waiting to be polished in the Moto3 world championship.
The 18-year-old world championship debutant had a good start in the Valencia test, which ended on Thursday. He was 18th fastest over three days with a best time of 1:40.734 – just 1.208 seconds off fastest rider Niccolo Antonelli of Italy.
Even seasoned rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin could not get a good pace on board the new Honda, as he was just 30th quickest during the three-day test.
Judging from the pace he had with the KTM bike, Hafiq could well finish within the points (top 15) in some of the races, provided he is armed with the correct strategy and some slick race craft.
But Hafiq, who rides for Team SIC-Ajo, knows that it is still too early to judge the pace of other riders as they move on to Jerez for the second pre-season test on Tuesday.
“It has been a completely new experience for me as I got to ride with the rest of the Moto3 riders. Most of them have more experience than me but I could judge my level out there,” said Hafiq.
Although he will be making his debut as a full season rider at the Qatar Grand Prix on March 23, Hafiq is not new to racing.
A product of the Red Bull Rookies Cup that has produced champions like Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, who now ply their trade in the MotoGP world championship, Hafiq began racing on minibikes at the age of five.
He spent two years in the Red Bull programme before SIC sent him to race in the Spanish National Championships in 2012.
Last year, at the Malaysian Grand Prix, he raced as a wildcard before continuing to race as a replacement for team La Fonte Tascaracing for the remaining three races of the season.
With a competitive bike in hand this year, Hafiq managed to be sixth quickest on the first day of testing at Valencia – something he didn’t imagine could happen.
“It was something unexpected because I’m just a rookie. But I always try to be as high up as possible with the timings.
“Testing some new parts and changing the set-up will be the next priority in Jerez. I want to get a better feel of the bike as we inch closer to the first race in Qatar,” he said.