Setting the benchmark for the SIC Ninja 250 Cup, Hilmi Affan Abdul Malek today won Race 2 of the series at Sepang Circuit; making him a double winner for the round and the man to beat for the championship.
Leading from start to finish, today’s race, however, was more challenging as compared to Race 1 yesterday as the cub prix rider had to fend off the challenge from Muhammad Amar Hafiq Rauzan and Has Fauzan Hassan before in the last few laps before finally taking the chequered flag in the 8-lap contest.
Watched by key officials of the series’ partners including Andrea Cleric, who is Pirelli Director for Asia and Jeffrey Lim, the General Manager of Kawasaki Malaysia, the 19-year old rider from Johor completed the race in 22 minutes 21.478 seconds and 0.262 seconds ahead of Muhammad Ammar, who finished the race in 22 minutes 21.740 seconds.
Has Fauzan, who like Hilmi and Muhammad Amar are also competing in the Malaysian Cub Prix Championship, took 22 minutes 25.236 seconds after going wide in the last turn as he pushed the Kawasaki Ninja machine to the limit. All three are competing in the junior category of the series.
The Open category was topped by former Kawasaki Cup 150cc rider Abdul Wafi Hassan, who finished fourth overall in the race. Sole lady rider, Siti Norafizah Mohamad, who is competing in the junior category, finished fifth overall and fourth in class.
Speaking at a press conference after the race, Hilmi said he owed his success to the three Baharuddin brothers of BikeArt Racing – Ahmad Zamani, Ahmad Fuad and Ahmas Nashrul – who are providing the training for the riders.
“They are all really great riders and I owed it all to them. They taught us everything … from riding positions, taking the corners and correcting us. They had given us priceless knowledge on motor racing,” he said in high praises of the three brothers, who are all Malaysian Super Series champions.
While Ahmad Zamani is a two-time champion in the Superstock Championship, Ahmad Fuad is a former 600cc Supersports champion as well as a former cub prix overall winner. Ahmad Nashrul, on the other hand, won the 135cc Production Bike Championship twice and is currently competing with Ahmad Fuad in the Asia Road Racing Championship.
Hilmi added: “The win for this round will definitely give me more confidence in the following rounds. I hope I can continue and maintain my form throughout the championship. Having said that, I must admit that there’s plenty that I need to learn and I am here to learn.
“I would also like to thank SIC, Kawasaki, Pirelli and BikeArt Racing for the programme … This is indeed a good programme for riders in Malaysia like me. Hopefully, I can continue to improve and progress,” said Hilmi, whose younger brother, Husni Aizat is also participating in the programme.
Crashing out after five laps in the opening race yesterday, Muhammad Ammar said that he had stronger confidence in today’s race; but admitted that he took a cautious approach in the opening laps.
“Clearly, the track felt better today. I was more confident and was even confident to push in the later stages. But, Hilmi was too fast. I aim to improve in the next round,” said Muhammad Ammar, who added that he also needed to made adjustment in riding style as the Kawasaki Ninja and his Modenas Cub Prix were very different machines.
Has Fauzan, who took second place in the opening round, said he was happy with his overall performance for the round and hoped that he would do better in Round 2, which would be held from September 14 to 16 during Round 3 of the MSS Bike Championship.
Speaking at the press conference, Cleric said Pirelli was proud to be associated with SIC and the MSS as well as in providing the competition tyres for the SIC Ninja 250 Cup.
“It is a pleasure for Pirelli to be part of MSS and supporting a very important series. This is our third year for us in supplying tyres for the Superbike and Supersports Championships.
“We are happy to support the SIC Ninja 250 Cup as well … it is very important for us to continue to develop the new generation and this is in line with Pirelli’s tradition and philosophy,” he said, adding their support for the MSS had also translated in good sales and mileage.
“So, we are very happy and we hope to continue to support SIC in its programmes for the development of motorsports in this country,” Cleric added.
In his comments, Jeffrey said: “This is an excellent programme and Kawasaki is proud to be SIC’s partner to the series. It is an ideal platform for youngsters especially to express themselves through racing and to chase their dreams to compete in the world championship.
“Through, this programme, it gives a chance for these youngsters to dream to ride in the MotoGP. On that note, Kawasaki will continue to support the programme and help to ensure its success,” he added.
Launched last Sunday, the SIC Ninja 250 Cup is another effort by Sepang International Circuit (SIC) to search for talents for selection to compete at against the world’s best Moto3 riders at the 2013 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang as wildcard riders.
Operated by BikeArt Racing, the series is also supported by Motorsports Association of Malaysia, AGV Helmets and Dainese, which is providing racing gears for the riders.
BikeArt Racing owner, Steven Ong, said that apart from riding techniques, the riders’ training programme included fitness as well as their diet.
“Some of the boys come from outside Kuala Lumpur. So, we need to work on a good schedule to suit their timing for all the riders,” he said, adding that BikeArt Racing is happy to be associated with SIC in running the innovative programme.