SOME people race against time to get by life, but others race against the clock as a way of life, even if that means not having the know-how. Alif Hamdan made his debut in motor racing in the beat-the-clock World Time Attack Challenge (WTAC) in Sydney in 2009 not even having had proper training in the discipline – he was only a Marketing Degree student at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, then.
Studies ride in the back seat now that the 23-year-old is on track to becoming one of Malaysia’s most promising drivers in the international race car arena.
“With racing, there’s an expiry date,” said Alif. “With the Porsche Carrera Cup (PCC), I’ve got until I’m 26 because at the end of each year, PCC will pick nine drivers under 26 with the highest points from other PCC (races) like PCC Asia, Australia, Japan and France. These drivers will then be sent to Germany to undergo training with Porsche. There, they’ll select a Porsche Carrera Cup scholar to represent Porsche.”
The Porsche scholar will be given a budget of 250,000 (RM1.1mil) to participate in the Porsche Supercup, which is a level up from PCC.
So far, the stars have lined up perfectly for Alif, who as the youngest Malaysian driver in PCC Asia, is now ranked first in the event (Class B). Last month, Alif finished second, behind his mentor Earl Bamber at PCC Asia in Japan.
He was the second Class B driver to get on the podium and the youngest driver to get an overall podium finish from Class B.
But before he officially started his racing career last year, he took a bold step by taking on the “hardest car to race” – the Porsche.
“I wanted to find out quickly if this sport was for me. So, I went ahead and picked the hardest GT (Gran Turismo) car to handle, with the mindset that if I start with a Porsche, and do well, everything else will be easier. If I can’t handle the Porsche, I might as well not do this as a career,” revealed Alif.
According to Alif, handling a Porsche requires a particular expertise, but it actually promotes the appropriate style of driving on a racetrack. He explained that since a Porsche’s engine is located at the back of the vehicle, driving it is all about mixing art and science, which is, specifically, knowing when to brake while taking a corner.
It is important to nail that skill because if a Porsche is driven correctly, it’s user friendly. If driven with the wrong technique, it’s quite a vicious car to control and it amplifies your mistakes, Alif intimated.
Greater issues exist though, like finding a platform to grow in motor racing in Malaysia.
“The problem with Malaysia is there are some really good go-kart teams, but there’s nothing in between to help you reach Formula One or GT/GT3. To get from go-kart to Formula One, there are probably another three or four different race classes unsupported by the Malaysian government,” said Alif ruefully.
“There’s no bridging platform, schemes or plans by the government to help these go-karters achieve their F1 or GT ambitions. We don’t have the correct infrastructure to produce good race drivers at the moment.”
Alif has come up with his own solution, though. He’s formed Alif Hamdan Motorsports, a school which strives to coach new drivers and improve existing ones.
But when it comes to his ultimate personal goal, he aspires to race in 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is the pinnacle of GT and endurance racing.
He reckons it’s more exciting and hardcore than F1 because there are greater thrills and spills between the (45 in total) cars during the 24-hour race.
And Alif has plenty of time to get there since he is in it for the long haul!
Looking to his future in motor racing, he hopes to gain more support and sponsorship to advance his career.