A SIMPLE trip to a go-kart track in Shah Alam, Selangor made all the difference for then six-year-old Jazeman Jaafar. He remembered watching other kids having a go at the track and thought it was something he should try.

“It was really exciting to watch kids my age racing on the track. After that I convinced my parents to let me try it and soon enough, I just got really into it,” said Jazeman, 19.

Then he developed a serious need for speed and turned his hobby into an adrenaline-fueled passion.

“I started joining go-kart racing competition and won my first race at the age of eight. I was younger than most participants so it was a really good feeling. That was the start of my racing career.”

Jazeman’s mother initially wasn’t too keen on the idea of him racing, but he credits his father for making it happen eventually.

“I began to realise what I was doing was more than a hobby. So I spoke to my father about the possibility of joining other racing competitions and he said, ‘Why not?’. So that led to a whole lot of other things.”

Now, Jazeman is a professional driver. His passion has taken him on a whirlwind tour around Asia and Europe. In 2006, Jazeman came in third at the Formula Renault Asia championship with four podium finishes.

A year later, he was crowned Formula BMW Asia champion with 10 wins and 16 podium finishes.
In 2010, Jazeman moved up to the British Formula 3 International Series. He concluded his debut with two podium finishes and finished in the top 10 16 times.

Jazeman’s hot streak continues with him being inducted as a member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star programme. The aim of the programme is to assist young and upcoming drivers in achieving success in high-class motorsports. He was beaming as he talked about one of the highlights in his career so far.

“It feels incredible to be recognised by members of this prestigious drivers’ club. I’m also the first Asian to be a part of the programme.”

He added that former Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton was one of BRDC’s success stories.
Jazeman has certainly proved his worth. Just last month when he ended the British F3 series with three wins, 12 podiums and 18 top five finishes. With his achievement, he finished second overall and was crowned vice-champion in the series.

“It was down to the wire at the last race! The story was anyone who won that race, would end up winning the championship. However, during the race, I got knocked out by a driver whose tyre deflated and his car crashed into mine. It was beyond my control,” he said.

Despite not finishing first, Jazeman has set his sights on Formula 1 and is getting closer to making it happen. He also has Petronas along with him for the ride.

“Without Petronas, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had the opportunity to race in F3 and it’s a starting point for drivers to get into F1. Petronas has developed me to become a driver that brings in results that could lead to bigger achievements. To finish second in F3 this year means we are taking the right steps towards that goal.”

Jazeman admitted the journey to becoming a professional driver was not always rosy. He had to forfeit his studies to give racing his full-time commitment and he said it was a tough decision to make.

“Life is about making choices and sacrifices. I saw a lot more (potential to succeed) in racing than graphic design at that time. I feel that I’m now at the prime age to be a professional. I can study at any time but I won’t have this opportunity (to become a professional driver) again.”


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