Zulfahmi Khairuddin became the first
Malaysian to land on the Moto3 podium.
MALAYSIA’S Zulfahmi Khairuddin was just two turns away from winning the Moto3 race and creating history as the first Malaysian to win a World Motorcycle Championship at the Sepang International Circuit yesterday.
Instead, the Malaysian who turned 21 a day earlier, was pipped to the chequered flag by German Sandro Cortese and had to settle for second place on the podium, a feat never achieved by a Malaysian before.
Still, it was an exhilarating finale for the Banting-born rider, who left local fans on the edge of their seats, with his historic and brilliant ride in the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
It culminated with him creating history as the first Malaysian to win pole position and land a first ever podium finish in the world championship.
The Air Asia-SIC-Ajo rider was leading the pack for the last seven laps and going into the last lap was still ahead until the second last run from the flag when Cortese zipped past him for victory and the Moto3 world crown.
Starting from pole, Zulfahmi took the holeshot at Turn 1 but let Folger passed him at the third corner and Mapfre Aspar Team rider went on to lead for the next 10 laps.
Joyful day: Fans holding the trophy which Zulfahmi Khairuddin won after finishing second in the Moto3 race at the
Sepang International Circuit yesterday.
Zulfahmi said it was part of the plan to let Folger through.
“It was a strategy we decided before the race. I know that my bike has straight-line speed advantage over Folger so it was not a problem to let him go to the front,” said Zulfahmi.
With eight laps remaining, a few rain flags came out in a few corners on the track as the rain came. And that prompted Zulfahmi to make his move on Folger much to the delight of the local crowd.
At that stage Zulfahmi was already contemplating that the race might be stopped if there was heavy rain.
Zulfahmi (right) congratulating Moto3 winner Sandro Cortese at the end
of the race.
“After a few drops of rain fell on my visor, I decided to pass him and take over the lead. If the race is red-flagged, I want to be in front.
“They did not stop the race, so I just pushed on.”
On the 13th lap Folger fell behind Cortese and Zulfahmi.
Cortese was second and could have kept his position and still win the Moto3 world title.
But the German wanted to win the world crown in style and he subsequently went ahead of Zulfahmi for victory – a feat he later regretted.
“After winning the race, I felt a bit sad for not allowing Fahmi to win his home GP. Later, I said sorry to him,” said Cortese.
Zulfahmi, said the wobble at the last corner, cost him a win.
“I actually made a mistake at the second last corner and that allowed Cortese to pass me. I tried to fight back at the last corner but then braked too late and suffered a slight bump so I decided it was better to hold on to second place than risk a crash,” said Zulfahmi.
“I am very happy to finish second. I would also like to thank the crowd. They were great all the way and I was really fired up to their cheers. I would also like to thank KTM for the excellent bike .”
The Malaysian earned 20 points at Sepang to take his tally to 112 and seventh place in the overall standings.
Cortese has an unassailable 280 points with only the Australia and Valencia GPs to go.
“Today’s achievement gives me more confidence for the remaining two races. I am sure that we would do equally well in Australia and Valencia,” said Zulfahmi.