THE Malaysian Cub Prix Championship, which revs off at Batu Kawan in Penang this weekend, will celebrate its 20th season this year. STARSPORT takes a look at the 20 cub prix riders who have impacted the growth of Malaysian motorsports either through their popularity or through their on-track achievements.
GENERATION 1 – THE PIONEERS
THIS is the generation that broke new grounds and it was their achievements that led to motorcycle racing being recognised as a sport by both the media and public.
CHIA TUCK CHEONG
RETICENT and publicity shy, 1997 and 2001 champion Chia Tuck Cheong prefers to let his riding do the talking. Despite his status as a top rider in the early years of cub prix, Tuck Cheong lent his expertise to the newly-established team Maju Motor Racing and was instrumental in their meteoric rise.
Tuck Cheong was also the first and only Malaysian rider to have won the SuperSports 600cc Asian Champion title, effectively opening the door for more Malaysian riders to make the jump from Underbone racing to full-frame racing. The fact that he won the 600cc title in the same year that he won the 2001 Expert title was the icing on the cake.
FOUR-TIME champion M. Meganathan won the Expert titles in 1994, 1995, 1999 and 2000 – a feat no other rider has equalled. By the sheer weight of his wins alone, Mega was a big inspiration to many aspiring young riders. A passionate rider, Mega raced as a MotoGP 125GP wild card in 1999 on his own effort and resources, a fact which very few people know about.
MOHD HISHAM NGADIN
HE MAY not have won any cub prix titles but Hisham Ngadin’s achievements are to be found on the bigger tracks. He dominated the Underbone 125cc category of the Asia Road Racing Championships, winning the 2002 and 2003 titles with relative ease.
ROSNIZAM MOHD NOOR
INITIALLY billed as the next Shahrol Yuzy, Rosnizam, or more frequently known as ‘Obert’, certainly seems to be following in the footsteps of Shahrol in the way he has gone about establishing his racing team. Obert was the second Malaysian rider to reach the Spanish National championship but unfortunately, the economic crisis at the end of the 1990s brought his international career to a halt.
But there was no stopping Obert’s passion for the sport. His team Motobert Racing suffered a series of setbacks when he was struggling to gain a foothold as a team manager in the sport. But today, thanks to Obert’s perseverance and determination, team Motobert ended the 2012 season in third overall position behind team SCK – an unprecedented feat for a private team without factory support.
SHAHROL YUZY AHMAD ZAINI
UNLIKE many other riders, Shahrol’s impact on the sport lasted beyond his riding years. He only took part in a few rounds of cub prix in 1994 and 1995 but really proved his mettle when he became the first Asia Road Racing 250cc champion in 1996. This propelled his growth and confident and prompted the late Tong Veng Kit to send him to the European Championship in 1997 supported by Petronas. By then, Shahrol was already earmarked to be the first Malaysian GP rider. His popularity grew as his performances in the Spanish Championship and the World Motorcycle Grand Prix improved. But it was only when he returned home from Europe that his influence in the industry began to really take shape.
Putting his influence to good use, Shahrol quickly formed a team intent on finding and grooming the next Malaysian rider to take his place on the world stage. Since then, he has not only become a strong voice in Malaysian motorsports but was also instrumental in the early growth and development of young riders like Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Zaqhwan Zaidi.
SHAHRUN NIZAM TAMIN
SHAHRUN holds the record as the oldest cub prix champion – winning the Expert title in 2003 at the age of 37. With the average age of cub prix riders becoming younger with each passing season and as the path to an international career becoming more accessible, it’s almost certain that this record will remain in Shahrun’s hands. However, as much as others joke about this record, there’s no doubt that Shahrun’s long career in cub prix has indirectly helped hone the race craft of the next generation of riders to enter the sport.
SOONG CHEE KIEONG
SOONG Chee Kieong may not have won any titles during his years of racing, but with countless wins in his pocket, he was still considered a top-flight rider with a fearsome reputation. But behind the smiling face on the podium was an impressive technical genius. His ability only came to the fore when he quit racing and established team SCK Racing. Since then, he has become the only team manager to have ever won titles using Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda. As a result, he played a huge behind-the-scene role in the technological growth of Malaysian racing.
WAZI ABDUL HAMID
PERHAPS the most publicity-savvy rider of the first generation, this 1996 Expert champion may have only won the title once but the aura of the ‘Kapcai King’ attracted a large fan following. Today, Wazi continues to use his influence to get youths off the streets and on to the tracks.
YASIR was Yamaha’s ace rider from 1994 to 1997. Though he never won any titles, he’s still the only rider to have earned the distinction of simultaneous wins in both the Expert and Novice category. In 1996 and 1997, Yasir formed a formidable partnership with Chia Tuck Cheong representing Hong Leong Yamaha in the 150cc category of Asia Road Racing Championship and were highly successful in checking the domination of the Thai riders.
YONG YING HOE
ONLY a year in cub prix, he would go on to own one of the most successful teams in the championships’ history to date. From 1997 to 2008, team Maju Motor Racing raked in a total of 12 titles in the Expert, Novice and team categories. Along with the titles, he single-handedly honed the talents of riders like Chia Tuck Cheong, Mohd Faisal Yahya, Mazlan Khamis, Ahmad Fazli Sham, Suhadi Ali Rahmat, Ahmad Fazrol Sham and K. Sivanesan. To this day, team Maju Motor are one of the most sought-after teams by aspiring riders.
GENERATION 1.5 - THE TRAILBLAZERS
THIS was the generation that straddled the changeover from two-stroke to four-stroke. Building upon the achievements of the generation before them, this batch led the systematic push to establishing Malaysia as a powerhouse in the Asian motorcycle racing industry.
AHMAD FAZLI SHAM
THE ‘Valentino Rossi’ of cub prix, Fazli’s fairy-tale start captivated the fans. He’s still the most successful rider of his generation with three cub prix titles and two Asian titles to his name. Fazli was cub prix champion in 2007 and 2008 as well as Underbone 125cc Asian champion in 2004 and 2005. His five-year reign at the top of the standings garnered a lot of fans. He represented the dreams of many young aspirants – that anything is possible if you give it your all. Today, while still actively racing, Fazli also gives back to the sport by coaching and helping privateer riders to break into the sport.
AHMAD FUAD BAHARUDIN
FUAD is the rider with the longest cub prix career. His name first came into the cub prix roster in 1997 and this season will mark his 16th year in the championship. Over the years, this 2002 and 2009 Expert champion has developed into a rider with unbeatable technical skills, who is equally at ease astride an Underbone bike as well as a 600cc full-frame motorcycle. This has led to him taking on a number of coaching assignments, most notably in 2009 when he was appointed as second coach alongside Shahrol Yuzy in the turnkey Malaysian MotoGP Wildcard Programme. Fuad’s input and abilities were also crucial in establishing the Rosnizam-owned team Motobert Racing as serious contenders in the title chase. Nicknamed ‘Abang Power’ by the younger riders, Fuad is the benchmark against which they measure themselves against.
AZLAN SHAH KAMARUZAMAN
RATHER than just influencing the growth of Malaysian motorsports, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman’s impact was felt at the regional level. Even before he was crowned the 2012 CP130 champion, Azlan was already one of the top Malaysian riders in the SuperSports 600cc category. Together with Thailand’s Decha Kraisart and Chalermpol Polamai, Azlan was one of the catalysts in attracting the attention of Japanese manufacturers to the Asian Championship.
In 2011, Azlan and team-mate Emir Firdaus Hasan sent shockwaves through the Japanese motorsports industry when the Suzuka 4-hour Endurance debutants won the prestigious title against all expectations. Their performance convinced Honda Japan that Asian motorsports was an area well worth developing and this led to the creation of the Honda-backed Asia Dream Cup, which will become the stepping stone for many Asian riders to realise their dreams of racing internationally.
ELLY IDZLIANIZAR ILIAS
THE highlight of Elly’s career came in 2009 when he led the Malaysian MotoGP Wildcard Programme as its lead rider (with Zulfahmi Khairuddin as second rider). Elly finished 16th in the GP125 class of the 2009 Malaysian MotoGP, the best GP125 wildcard performance of the year. His position as lead rider brought him into the centre of the public’s attention and even inspired a book by Malaysian author Rose Harissa. The book, Evolusi Elly, published in 2010, is still the only autobiography ever written on a Malaysian rider.
MOHD AFFENDI ROSLI
NOVICE champion in 2007 and Underbone 115cc Asian champion in 2009, he is still the only Malaysian rider to have won the Asian title after the move to four-stroke was completed. Affendi’s continued role in the Underbone class of the Asian championship has become even more important in recent years. As Malaysian teams continue the trend of sending young rookies into the Asian sphere to gain more exposure, Affendi’s presence on the grid helps guide these youngsters as they come toe-to-toe against their peers from other Asian countries.
MOHD SUHADI ALI RAHMAT
SUHADI was the first and only rider with both Road Racing and Motocross titles to his name. The national motorcross champion from 1998 to 2001, he was crowned Expert champion in 2006. He was also the first Under-16 rider to participate in cub prix. Suhadi’s entry into cub prix shattered the myth that only riders in their late teens are capable of racing. Because of that, riders from as young as 13 are able to compete in cub prix today.
MUHAMMAD ZAMRI BABA
ZAMRI’S career is a textbook example of the cub prix’s system of developing riders. He was one of the pioneer riders in the one-make race category, followed by a stint in the age-capped Wira class (which he won in 2004) before he progressed to the Novice class (which he won in 2006). This was followed by a move up to the Expert/CP130 class and thence to the SuperSports 600cc class where he is now. In other words, Zamri was one of those who literally rose through the ranks.
After the success of the 2009 Malaysian MotoGP Wildcard Programme, the focus of the programme was switched from the GP125/Moto3 class to the newly-introduced Moto2 category. In 2010 and 2011, Zamri was picked as the wildcard rider before the torch was finally passed to Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah in 2012. Zamri’s wildcard performances in 2010 and 2011 opened the eyes of the world to the potential possessed by Malaysian and Asian riders.
GENERATION 2 - RISING INTERNATIONAL STARS
ALL the doors of opportunity cracked open by the previous generation are now being thrown wide open by the newest batch of riders. Barely out of their teens, aggressive and media-savvy, this generation possesses the ability to reach out to an even wider audience. Just as they had been inspired by their predecessors, this latest generation of riders will continue to inspire the next batch of hopeful youngsters coming into the sport.
HAFIZH SYAHRIN ABDULLAH
Cub prix’s youngest Expert/CP130 champion and the Asian Championship’s youngest SuperSports 600cc race winner, developmental plans for Hafizh had always been long-term. After an initial Moto2 wildcard performance alongside Zamri Baba in 2010, Hafizh became the third Malaysian rider to race in the Spanish Championship, now renamed the CEV Buckler. Unlike Shahrol and Rosnizam before him, who raced on GP125 bikes, the 19-year-old Hafizh is now being trained solely on the Moto2 machine with the eventual plan of him making it onto the world stage.
MOHD ZAQHWAN ZAIDI
A SUZUKA 4-hour champion just like Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman. Although Azlan won the Suzuka 2001 title as a debutant, he had spent years perfecting his race craft in the Asian Championship. Zaqhwan, however, won the title in his first full season astride the SuperSports 600cc machine – a feat that speaks volumes about his innate talent and natural abilities. Now only 18 years old, Zaqhwan is also being fast tracked through the ranks and may very well be the next Malaysian phenom to emerge from cub prix.
THE current poster-boy of Malaysian motorsports, Zulfahmi Khairuddin was in his third year in cub prix with limited success before a wildcard opportunity in 2009 allowed him to boldly step into the world of the MotoGP. As one of the top riders in the current Moto3 batch, Fahmi has proven that the Malaysian Cub Prix Championship is a breeding ground for riders. His steady progress in the Moto3 class of the World Motorcycle Grand Prix continues to bring more attention to the sport. Hopefully, this will translate into more opportunities for young Malaysian riders to follow in his footsteps.