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Thursday December 6, 2012
By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: It’s a done deal! Zulfahmi Khairuddin will ride for the Red Bull KTM Ajo next year and this could see the Malaysian fighting for the Moto3 world crown.
FIM (International Motorcycling Federation) announced the entries for the 2013 season of the World Motorcycle Championships yesterday, or more popularly known as MotoGP, and the Malaysian sensation is listed as officially riding for the reigning world champions.
Zulfahmi, who is sticking with No. 63 for his bike, will line up alongside Australian Arthur Sissis and Spaniard Luis Salom.
The Spaniard finished runner-up behind German team-mate Sandro Cortese last year.
However, Cortese and Briton Danny Kent are moving to Moto2, thus paving the way for Zulfahmi to move into the main team.
Having ridden under the familiar red colours of AirAsia-SIC-Ajo for the past three seasons, Malaysian fans will now have to get used to seeing Zulfahmi in the blue livery of a KTM machine when the season kicks off next April.
Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali confirmed that the deal had been finalised for the 21-year-old rider from Banting to move to the main team.
“It’s only the local partner that’s left to be determined and we should know it before the year is over,” he said, likening the move to that of a promising footballer joining a more established team.
“Red Bull Ajo in Moto3 is like Ferrari in Formula One. We are ‘selling off’ Zulfahmi and will channel the money to bring in another young rider into the World Championships to ensure a continuation of our commitment to Malaysian motorsports.”
The 21-year-old Zulfahmi knows that while he can expect better crew support, it also comes with bigger responsibilities.
Zulfahmi will no doubt be compared to Salom, who won two races this season.
Interestingly, Zulfahmi and Salom will be competing in their fourth season next year.
“Zulfahmi’s talent was recognised by team boss Aki Ajo even before he won his first career podium at the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in October,” said Razlan.
“He shone this year with two podium placings ... I hope he delivers better results next year.
“The expectations will be different compared to this year and he must be prepared to fight for the top three overall, if not the world championship.
“But I’m confident the experience will put him in good stead.”
Zulfahmi marked his best-ever season with a seventh placing on 128 points and highlighted by two career podium finishes and a first-ever pole position.
The pole was earned at Sepang on his 21st birthday (Oct 20) and he was unlucky not to cap it with a win as he was beaten at the second last corner by Cortese.
Zulfahmi put up a superb fighting display to secure third from 17th on the starting grid at the final round of the season in Valencia last month.
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