Wednesday, 21 May 2014 | MYT 9:21 PM
Barry's faith in Hafizh certainly paying off now
Malaysian Moto2 rider Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah flanked by his support team in Le Mans. - filepic
LE MANS: Malaysian Moto2 rider Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah used to get into all kinds of trouble during his school days for missing classes.
But one person – former racer Barry Leong – saw beyond Hafizh’s carefree lifestyle and mischievousness.
He saw potential in the young lad and decided to give him a shot at making motorsport a career at the tender age of 12.
Now, eight years later, former bank officer Barry’s investment in the youngster is paying huge dividend.
From a street pocket-biker, the 20-year-old Hafizh has been transformed into a full-fledged rider with Petronas Raceline Malaysia in the Moto2 class of the World Motorcyle Championships.
And he is being touted as having the potential to make it all the way into MotoGP one day.
Team manager Barry attributed Hafizh’s rise – from his humble beginning to a regular starter in Moto2 – to a combination of factors.
Firstly, the 52-year-old Barry saluted the undying support of Hafizh’s parents – father Shafie Harun@Abdullah and mother Maznizah Mansur.
“Hafizh is a rare talent but, without his father’s blessings, we could not have come this far. Dealing with family members can be tedious – especially when it concerns a young child,” said Barry, who has been involved in motor sport since 1981 and currently owns the Raceline Motorcycle company.
“Hafizh was one of the more notorious boys in school. He skipped classes to be at his father’s small motorbike workshop. He even tried to fix the bikes at times. Once the bikes are fixed, he would speed away on these bikes, revving around the streets. His father used to be so upset.
“We then took Hafizh under our care. His father gave us his blessing to guide his son. We worked together with his teachers – making sure that he attended school when he wasn’t racing. The teachers were supportive too. Now, Hafizh goes back to the school – Taman Maluri Secondary School in Cheras – as a role model.”
For Barry, his love for motor sport has no boundaries and, amazingly, he saw these same attributes in Hafizh.
“I’ve seen him grow all these years. He is passionate about racing and is willing to make sacrifices,” said Barry.
“When he does not get the desired results, he gets all worked up and even cries, sometimes. He, however, gets up quickly from setbacks ... I like this determination in him.”
Since coming under Barry’s wings, Hafizh has been powering his way up the ladder. At 13, he made his debut in the Petronas AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championship – and started winning races.
A year later, Barry threw him into a more challenging situation – competing outside the country. Hafizh was unfazed and came through the test with flying colours, winning his first international title at the Asian Yamaha Cup in Bangkok.
And that was when Petronas came into the picture – investing in the youngster to turn him into a top class rider.
And for Barry, that was one of their biggest breaks.
For instance, a team would require between 200,000 to 500,000 (RM881,000 to RM2.2mil) to support one rider in Moto2.
“Spain and Italy are investing in young bloods in motor racing ... at one time, we had to rely on many old timers in cub prix. With Hafizh’s breakthrough, we were able to get sponsors to support young talents and provide them with opportunities to move up. That motivated me to work with young talents ... Hafizh has certainly paved the way,” said Barry, who used to fend for himself during his racing days in the 1980s.
And Barry certainly knows the importance of team support, which is another factor he has credited for the rise of Hafizh.
“Hafizh is fortunate that he has a good team supporting him. He has been based in Barcelona for the last three years (being involved in CEV – Spanish National Championships – before moving up to Moto2). The team have been travelling with him and providing him with all the technical, emotional and all kinds of support ... all he has to do is to focus on his racing,” said Barry.
“We are still learning as a team but to see the team grow through the years is satisfying indeed.”
When asked if he has had enough doing his part to lift the profile of Malaysian motorsport Barry said: “There have been hardships and pitfalls in grooming young talents but to see someone like Hafiz stepping up to the plate is rewarding.
“The drive in me is now even stronger to guide Hafizh to greater success,” added the ever jovial Barry.