Preview Grand Prix of France, LE MANS: Zulfahmi Looks Good to Extend Hot Streak
Currently in red hot form, Malaysian GP rider Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin looks good for another strong performance and adding more points to his haul as the MotoGP 125 world championship goes to the home of the world famous 24-hour race at Le Mans, France for Round 4.
Performing beyond pre-season expectations with a 10th placing in Jerez and 11th in Estoril, the 19-year old AirAsia Sepang International Circuit AJO Racing rider is currently in high spirits; pledging to put up his best performance again and ready to make the nation proud.
Three rounds and 11 world championship points: Malaysian Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin is definitely a different rider this year – one that had benefited from a year of world class racing under his belt and migration to the world champion team – Ajo Motorsports.
“I spoke to him on Monday to give him some words of encouragement and to keep up the excellent performance … he’s excited and really looking forward to the race in Le Mans. I am very happy that he’s settling very well with the new team,” says Sepang International Circuit Chief Executive Officer Dato Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali.
“We hope Fahmi keeps up his momentum on the back of two good results from Jerez and Estoril … he is making all Malaysians proud and all of us are behind him and supporting him. We wish him the very best,” added Razlan, who, however, noted that Le Mans has always been a challenging circuit for the riders especially for new riders like Fahmi.
In his rookie season last year at the French Grand Prix, Fahmi – a graduate of Malaysia’s GP wildcard programme in 2009, qualified 24th fastest and finished the race in 25th place. He was 28th fastest in free practice around the 4,185-meter track.
The Bugatti circuit is often described as “stop and go” because it does not flow from turn to turn. Nearly every corner is preceded by a straightaway—some long and others shorter—creating a situation where riders brake particularly hard and then accelerate abruptly
In the overall battle in the 125 class, Spaniard Nico Terol remains the man to beat in the 125 category, having opened up a 25-point lead at the top of the Championship standings after just three rounds of the 2011 season.
The Bankia Aspar rider has won the first three races of the campaign – the first rider to do so since Masao Azuma in 1999 – and at Le Mans will line up for his 100th GP start, all of which have come in the 125 class, according to a media released issued by motogp.com
With the Spaniard in such strong form a chasing pack has formed in his wake, with German duo Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) and Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) and Frenchman Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) a trio of riders battling one another as they prepare for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France.
Cortese leads the threesome whilst Folger and Zarco are level on points, and the French rider will be eager for a strong home result after stepping onto the podium for the past two consecutive races. His competitors are also in rostrum-finishing shape after the opening three races of 2011.
Spaniards Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) and Sergio Gadea (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) know that they will need to produce strong results in France to maintain contact with those ahead of them, even this early in the season, whilst Gadea’s rookie team-mate Maverick Viñales will have taken great encouragement from his display in Portugal where he was denied a first podium in only his third GP by just two-thousand of a second.
Other rookies in the shape of Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) and Miguel Oliveira (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) continue to impress, whilst British rider Taylor Mackenzie (Phonica Racing) will hope to be fit to ride after a crash in QP at Estoril ruled him out of the race with a shoulder injury.
Three wildcard riders will supplement the field at Le Mans with French youngsters Kevin Szalai (Maxiscoot MVT Racing) and Kevin Thobois (Team RMS) and Swiss rider Patrick Meile (Albatros Racing) riding.
After Estoril, Fahmi has 13 more rounds to compete including a home race at the 2011 Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, which will be held from October 21 to 23.
FIM MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2011
Point Standings After 3 Rounds
Top 15 Leaders
1. Nicolas Terol (SPA) 75 pts
2. Sandro Cortese (GER) 50 pts
3. Jonas Folger (GER) 42 pts
4. Johann Zarco (FRA) 42 pts
5. Efren Vazquez (SPA) 30 pts
6. Sergio Gadea (SPA) 30 pts
7. Maverick Vinales (POR) 20 pts
8. Danny Kent (GBR) 17 pts
9. Luis Slalom (SPA) 16 pts
10. Miguel Oliveira (POR) 15 pts
11. Jakub Kornfeil (CZE) 12 pts
12. Taylor MacKenzie (GBR) 11 pts
13. Adrian Martin (SPA) 11 pts
14. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (MAL) 11 pts
15. Hector Faubel (SPA) 10 pts
The Remaining Races of 2011 Season
Round 4 – May 15 : France (Le Mans)
Round 5 - June 5 : Catalunya (Catalunya)
Round 6 – June 12 : Great Britain (Silverstone)
Round 7 - June 25 : Netherlands (Assen) – Race on Saturday
Round 8 - July 3 : Italy (Mugello)
Round 9 - July 17 : Germany (Sachsenring)
Round 10 – July 24 : United States (Laguna Seca) (no 125, MotoGP only)
Round 11 - August 14 : Czech Republic (Brno)
Round 12 – August 28 : Indianapolis (Indianapolis)
Round 13 – September 4 : San Marino & Riviera di Rimini (Misano)
Round 14 - September 18 : Aragón (Motorland)
Round 15 – October 2 : Japan (Motegi) (rescheduled after postponement)
Round 16 - October 16 : Australia (Phillip Island)