KUALA LUMPUR: Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali has revealed that Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah's move to MotoGP would not have been possible without the unwavering support of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team principal Herve Poncharal.
Talks of Hafizh joining Tech 3 as a replacement for Jonas Folger started at last month’s winter test in Sepang.
There was, however, a big question mark on whether the move would actually go through as a major sponsor of the team was not in favour of Hafizh.
"Herve is one of the most experienced people in the paddock and I often referred to him for advice every time we met during a GP. I also referred to him for advice on how to get Hafizh in MotoGP next year and that is how all this started," said Razlan.
"Actually, everything was (verbally) confirmed on the first day of the Sepang winter test - Herve, Yamaha and even Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna CEO) all wanted Hafizh but there was a problem with one of the sponsors who did not want him because he is not a big name in the sport.
"But Herve stood firm and told me he would still proceed with signing Hafizh. Of course, Herve had to take a softer, more professional approach with sponsors, especially as this particular one has been with them for a long time.
"But he also told me that they don't have the right to choose who rides for the team.
"We talked on the phone every day and in fact he even said that he would go as far as letting the sponsor go if they did not accept Hafizh, it (his support for hafizh) was to that extent.
"In the end, it all turned out well and I believe the sponsors have also accepted Hafizh. From what I see, the team are behind Hafizh and as I have said before, I will leave it to them to develop him as a rider."
Razlan disclosed that Hafizh's performance in the recent three-day test at Buriram also helped put everyone on the same page.
"Signing Hafizh is a big risk for everyone involved but the team were really impressed with Hafizh's performance in testing because he was under tremendous pressure but was still able to do deliver what they wanted," said Razlan.
"Hafizh had never been on a MotoGP bike before, was racing at an unfamiliar track (Buriram) and also carried the burden of expectations being the first Malaysian in MotoGP.
"He was also at a disadvantage compared to the other rookies in MotoGP as they already had two or three tests under their belt by the time they were at Buriram.”
Hafizh did well to place above Karel Abraham, Xavier Simeon and Jorge Lorenzo during the Buriram test. The MotoGP season will kick-off at the Losail International Circuit in Buriram on March 18.