SUBANG: After weeks of speculation, it is now official.
Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah has been signed by MotoGP outfit Monster Yamaha Tech 3 for the 2018 season.
The France-based team have secured Hafizh on a one-year contract as a replacement for Jonas Folger who was forced to sit-out this season due to illness.
Tech 3 also features 2017 MotoGP Rookie of the Year Johann Zarco and are arguably the strongest among non-factory teams in MotoGP.
Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali, who played a pivotal role in securing the last minute deal, said it was a historic moment in Malaysian motorsport.
Hafizh is not only the first Malaysian rider to compete in the premier class but is also the first from Southeast Asia to do so.
"At 4pm today (Wednesday), we received confirmation from Tech 3 that Hafizh will be racing with them for the 2018 season," said Razlan at a press conference on Wednesday.
"This is a historic announcement for Malaysian motorsports, after 27 years of hosting MotoGP — first at Batu Tiga then Pasir Gudang and now Sepang — here we finally have our first rider in the premier class.
"This is a proud development, we worked hard to get this opportunity. It was meant for Hafizh and it is also a present to all Malaysians who will be able to see him racing in MotoGP this season.
"It is also a chance for Zulfahmi Khairuddin to revive his career (in Moto2).”
Zulfahmi has been signed as a replacement for Hafizh's Moto2 seat at SIC Racing Team. The Petronas Sprinta Racing Moto3 team, which is also managed by SIC, features Adam Norrodin and Japanes Ayumu Sasaki. This is the first time Malaysia will have riders in all three categories — Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP.
Razlan said he will leave it to Tech 3 team principle Herve Poncharal to further develop Hafizh as a rider.
"We will now hand over Hafizh to Herve, he will guide and develop him to become a better, more experienced rider who will be able to compete against riders such as Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenze and Marc Marquez,” added Razlan.
"We manage what we can as best possible but it is up to Hafizh to do the business on the track. He did well at Buriram recently and surprised a lot of people with his performance, which subsequently secured him the seat."
Hafizh recently concluded three days of pre-season testing with Tech 3 at the Buriram circuit in Thailand. The MotoGP season begins at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar on March 18.