AFTER a long absence, popular motorcycle manufacturers Honda are officially returning to the Petronas Sprinta AAM Ma-laysian Cub Prix Championships fold this year.
Although their machines are a regular feature at the cub prix races, Honda have not put up a team to compete in the annual challenge in recent years.
But all that is set to change as the Penang-based Idemitsu Honda Racing Team will make their debut when the 2007 season revs off at the Kluang circuit on April 14.
The local racing fans are in for a double treat as Honda are also introducing a one-make event for all ten legs of this year’s championships.
The event, which will be known as the Honda Wave 125cc Challenge, is open to privateers.
In the category, the motor- cycle manufacturers will provide Honda Wave 125cc machines with identical race settings for the riders.
It is a concept similar to the A1 Grand Prix car races, in which the drivers’ skills and not the vehicle’s superiority will be the crucial element to determine the outcome of a race.
“We will provide the motorcycles, and the riders need only to turn up, pay a nominal entry fee of RM50 for each round and race the machines.
“By racing on similar settings, good young talents can be identified by the organisers. The outstanding riders over the course of the season will be selected to train at the Suzuka Racing School in Japan under the tutelage of former 125cc world champion Noboru Ueda,” said Idemitsu Honda Racing Team (IHRT) director Tan Hui Jing.
He added that the response to compete in the event was overwhelming since entries were called in mid-March.
“Although many riders want to race in the new category, there is a limitation on the number of motorcycles to be made available. Therefore, we have to impose a selection process, with priority given to loyal riders who are committed to the cub prix scene.
“All applicants must possess a valid racing licence issued by the Automobile Association of Malay-sia and need to get in touch with the organisers (www.malaysiancubprix.com) to be considered for selection,” added Hui Jing.
Meanwhile, team manager Rodney Peh confirmed that six riders would compete for IHRT in the Wira and Novice categories this year.
Unlike the Expert class, which is for 2-stroke engine bikes only, the 4-stroke Honda Wave 125cc can be used in both the Wira and Novice classes.
The Expert class is the premier racing category in the cub prix challenge.
“The Malaysian Cub Prix organisers will only implement a rule change to allow 4-stroke machines into the Expert class in 2008. So, the timing is right for IHRT to enter the fray through the Wira and Novice classes this year.
“We will also let our riders test our machines in several Expert races this year, but our 4-stroke Honda Wave 125cc bikes will not be eligible to accumulate points in the category,” said Rodney.
The six riders who will carry the IHRT challenge in 2007 are Nor Hisham Amran, Hudzzirshah Shahdan, Mohammad Nasir, Ras-hiuddin Marwan, Sa'aduddin Rosle and Khairul Adli Azhar.
The Honda motorcycles that will be used by the six riders and also for the Honda Wave 125cc Challenge races are currently being set up by a team of mechanics at the Honda workshop in Sungai Pinang, Penang.