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Thursday January 17, 2013

Malaysian driver Afiq aims to win new Formula Masters China

<b>Determined driver:</b> MeritusGP driver Afiq Ikhwan Yazid preparing himself for the Formula Masters China series. A splendid show will boost Afiq’s (inset) quest to join the Volkswagen racing GT cars. Determined driver: MeritusGP driver Afiq Ikhwan Yazid preparing himself for the Formula Masters China series. A splendid show will boost Afiq’s (inset) quest to join the Volkswagen racing GT cars.

PETALING JAYA: Afiq Ikhwan Yazid is ready to prove that Europe is no longer the only alternative for those looking to build a career in motorsports.

Afiq is plotting a career-changing move to the new Formula Masters China series this year and the target is for him to win the championship in his rookie year.

The 21-year-old will stick with Meritus GP team but, should he achieve his goal, a move to the Volkswagen programme to race in GT cars is a possibility.

Despite his late start in motorsports – only six years ago – Afiq’s talent earned him a race seat with Meritus GP and he went on to finish as runner-up in the JK Racing Asia series in 2011 after taking sixth place in his rookie season the previous year.

Afiq, third overall behind Nabil Jeffri last year, is all pumped up about the new challenge.

Afiq was initially eyeing a move to the British F3 International Series but changed his mind.

“Europe is struggling with economic troubles and motor-racing is also feeling its effects. The British F3 grid is getting smaller because drivers are having problems raising money,” he said.

“If I were to go to F3, it will cost £800,000 ... and that’s excluding the cost you have to pay if the car is damaged.

“More European drivers are shifting to Asia and Peter Thompson (MeritusGP president) advised us that it’s best to give it a shot at driving GT cars, which provide decent career opportunities.

“The focus now is on the Formula Masters ... to try and win the championship. Then, hopefully, get a race seat with Volkswagen racing GT cars.

“A good example is Hong Kong driver Marchy Lee (winner of the Formula BMW Pacific series in 2004), who is paid US$250,00 a year by Audi to drive in the Audi R8 LMS Cup,” said Afiq.

German manufacturer Volkswagen have reportedly pumped in more than US$2.1bil into a marketing programme for Asia alone, which includes sponsorship of racing series and driver development.

This new racing series aims to create a platform for young talented drivers in China and Asia to further develop their skills and progress in their racing career.

The first season of the six-event series kicks off in May, racing at circuits in China and Asia.

The series is also part of a selection process used by Volkswagen to fill race seats in GT and touring car series, which they are involved in through their different marques – Volkswagen, Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Skoda and Seat.

Afiq is optimistic that the team have the right package for him to fight for the championship.

“I’ve done a few test sessions with the car and it’s totally different to single-seater racing,” he said.

“There is more downforce and you need to carry more speed into the corner. We’ll be testing the new engine in China next month for 10 days and I should be ready when the season starts in May.

“There are three races, including a sprint race, each weekend ... so there should be plenty of action.”

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