By KEVIN TAN
WHEN Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah was only nine, he already knew that he was destined to ride the motorbike. Back then, he even nicked money from his father (a mechanic), just to rent a motorbike to ride on. The Cheras, Selangor-raised lad only had his burning passion to blame.
“My father worked as a mechanic at the workshop. So when people came to the workshop to collect their repaired vehicles, I would collect the money and keep it for myself to rent a bike,” said the 19-year-old with a chuckle as he recalled his childhood days.
As a youngster, Hafizh would practice and spend his days doing laps at a track in Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur.
Well, until he got caught by his father one day.
“When my father found out that I had stolen money and was riding a motorbike, he banned me from riding,” said the MotoGP racer.
Surprisingly, however, his father bought him his very first bike shortly after that, and Hafizh continued playing with his new toy at the usual tracks.
This turned out to be the best gift his father had given him.
While Hafizh was doing his thing at the tracks, Barry Leong, team manager of Team Petronas Sprinta Yamaha Raceline, discovered the young and agile rider at the track, and was very impressed. Immediately after witnessing Hafizh’s skills and performance, Leong decided to take him in for professional training.
“I was astonished with how Hafizh could zig-zag obstacles at the track at such a quick speed with the motorbike. I saw special talent in him despite his young age.” said Leong.
At the age of 12, Hafizh was already part of the national team and by the age of 15, as a junior, he had already join races in the senior category.
He emerged as champion in the Yamaha Asean Cup in 2008 and won first place twice back-to-back in the Petronas AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championship in 2009 and 2010.
To date, his biggest achievement is breaking the world record to be the first wildcard entry racer to finish fourth in a MotoGP race. Hafizh achieved this feat at the Malaysian MotoGP in 2012 (as a wildcard entry), where selected qualified racers stood a chance to race among world class racers.
Although his father had doubts in the beginning, Hafizh’s achievements managed to convince him that he has a career ahead as a professional racer.
“One thing about Hafizh is that he never likes to be beaten, and always strives to be the best. He never says that an achievement is enough, and always wants to break his own limits,” said Leong, who is now Hafizh’s personal trainer.
His training is currently in Catalonia, Spain, where he trains alongside other international racers, who are much older than him.
“It’s really good to be around people who are more mature and older than I am. I am learning a lot, especially to build a future in this sport and beyond, like managing finances, buying a house, and things like that.”
Aside from hitting the tracks, his daily routine is going to the gym and cycling. He occasionally goes swimming, plays football and makes hiking trips as well.
Said to be the next hope for Malaysia in motor racing, Hafizh is no doubt determined to live up to that claim.
“This is my dream, it’s all I ever wanted to do, and I already knew this when I was nine years old,” he said.
“If you want something, you gotta work for it; think and plan to get it. Lepak (hang out) less and cut down on the teh tarik sessions. Do stuff that are more productive. There’s always a sacrifice to make to meet your dreams.
“Oh, and don’t race on the streets,” he added.