LIFE on the fast track can be exhilarating, adrenaline-pumping and challenging. The StarSports’ RAJES PAUL caught a glimpse of what it’s all about when she caught up with Malaysian Moto2 ace Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah during the French Grand Prix at the historic Le Mans recently.
What is your daily routine on race day?
I leave the hotel with my team manager (Barry Leong) for the racing track. We talk about everything, except the race. It takes away the pressure ... a little. At the track, we are based at our Petronas truck and the paddock is our temporary home. I’ve slept in the truck with the mechanics before. It’s quite small but I can deal with discomfort. At the racing track, the focus is all on getting the bike – and me – in tip-top condition. During the race, the situation can be crazy – everything happens so fast.
I also jog around the track – just like the other riders. I’m able to remember the track better and it’s great to get a feel of the track and visualise the tricky corners. And, of course, the running also helps me improve my physical condition.
Can you share with us your daily diet at the racetrack?
It is pasta with tuna and tomato. We have dessert and my favourite is anything with banana. I consume a lot of fruit juice and always have a mineral bottle in my hand. My motto is: one day, one litre of water. I do not eat rice here very much. The grains are different. I’m based in Barcelona and so, sometimes during the off-season, we cook Malaysian food. I’m not that fussy. I eat what I must as long as it is healthy.
You seem to spend a lot of time in front of Telemetry. What is that?
Telemetry is a great tool for a rider like me. The technology helps to interpret data collected during the test and race. Together with my chief mechanic, we are able to change the bike’s settings based on the data from telemetry. We feed in information based on what I experienced on track and, in return, it shows what needs to be done and what needs to be perfected. It is cool.
In between races, what do you do?
I’m always up to something fun and nice. Usually, I’ll hang out with my good friends – Luis Salom of Spain, Sandro Cortese of Germany and Azlan Shah. We go out for drinks and listen to cool music. We crack a lot of jokes. I watch movies via computer too, sometimes.
I don’t like to stay alone or just spend time in bed. If they are busy, I’ll take my scooter and go meet others at their paddock.
There are 18 rounds in a season. How do you manage the busy schedule and the travelling?
My lifestyle has really changed and I’m getting used to it. I travel a lot nowadays but I’m used to it. If the venue is within four hours, I’ll go with the team by car. I have followed the truck once. Most of the times, though, we take a flight. It’s all about adjusting. It is the life in fast track, I guess.
You listen to music before the race starts – what kind of music?
I just love it. My favourite is rhythm and blues. I also enjoy music spun by disc jockeys. I listen to them a lot before the race starts – especially the upbeat ones (One can see Hafiz at the paddock quietly listening to his music in a corner). It just gets the adrenaline going. With this exciting music at the background, I can picture myself braking hard at corners before pulling away as fast as possible. I do listen to a lot of David Guetta’s music.
How important is the technology and social media for you?
I cannot imagine life without my smart phone. I’m always with my handphone. I update information on Instagram and tweet when I have some information to share with my fans. It is just a way to keep them engaged with my life here. I call home quite regularly too – to keep my father and mother posted on what’s going on.
How do you cope with the language barriers?
When I went to Australia for one international event a few years ago, I didn’t even know how to order drinks in English. Fortunately, Barry helped me along the way – correcting me whenever I got it wrong. Now, I’m getting better at it. I’m not embarrassed to speak in English anymore and am always looking at ways to improve. I’m picking up Spanish too. Hola!
Tell us one of your good memories – and one that you wish to forget too?
I think the best race I’ve had so far was at the Argentina Grand Prix. It was held at a new track and all the riders got into the race on equal footing. If not for a wrong tactical move on my side, we could have achieved the best result there. Overall, it was a great three days.
I have not experienced any bad situation just yet ... but it would have been great to avoid the races without winning points. I want to win at least one point in every race.
Have there been any embarrassing moments at the racing track?
I remember one – just before the start of the season. We were testing the bikes and I did just fine. When we were done, I was getting into the back of the truck via the high steps but lost my grip and fell. The team members had a good laugh ... I did well not to crash the bike but I was clumsy and fell instead. Fortunately, I was still in my racing suit – so there was minimal damage.
Grid girls and umbrella girls are permanent fixtures in motor racing. How do you keep yourself away from temptations and distractions?
(He laughed). I’m very focused in my racing career here. I have no girlfriends – if you know what I mean. I know how to handle the distractions here. I have close friends back home and I keep in touch with them. I confide in them all my ups and downs here and it’s a great way to release some of the pressure that comes with being a racer.