SEPANG, Malaysia – While most teenagers prefer to socialize with their peers than focus on their professional futures, a group of Malaysian boys who love speed and competition are pursuing their dreams to become the world’s best motorcycle riders.
The teens are too young to legally have licenses, but they are allowed to race around a closed track, where they can reach speeds of up to 212 kilometers per hour.
Dream Towards The MotoGP (Impian ke MotoGP), the pilot program nurturing them into a future of speed on two wheels, which is organized by the Sepang International Circuit, was launched in December 2017.
The circuit where they train on Thursday was being cleared after the first session of pre-season testing ahead of the MotoGP season, which kicks off in March.
The program has attracted some 300 young riders aged 13-15 years old who are taught all aspects of MotoGP training under the supervision of project leader and mentor Zulfahmi Khairuddin, a motorcycle race veteran who spent eight years competing around the world in the Moto3 and World Superbike Championship.
The full-body racing suits they wear become quite hot and stuffy under the Malaysian sun, and the boys showed epa some of the injuries to their feet and fingers sustained by often crashing their bikes, sometimes at speeds of 70-80 kph (45-50 mph).
But such annoyances are a small price to pay in pursuing their need for speed.
The riding sessions take place at a 1,247-km long kart circuit which contains 11 challenging bends at Sepang International Circuit, near Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The most talented 40 riders are chosen for the phase two test based on their lap times, riding techniques as well as their physical fitness levels.
The dream for one of the youngest riders, 13-year-old Harith Haziq, is to be as successful as his hero, the Malaysian Moto2 professional rider, Hafiz Syahrin.
Harith, who comes from Jengka in Pahang state – some 260 km from the circuit – and stands at only 1.35 meters tall and weighs 35 kg, has managed to become one of the top five boys in the program.
His family, who sells food for a living, wholeheartedly supports his passion, which grew out of his first competitive pocket bike (small motorcycles) races.
At age nine, he joined a league and raced on go-kart tracks at speeds that exceeded 120 km/h.
That was where he cut his teeth on the track, racking up more than 30 wins.
His young eyes are now fully focused on fulfilling his championship dreams.
The program’s next step takes the selected boys to tests on 250cc production race machines, after which a further selection takes place.
The program normally sees them train on the track every weekend for two to three years, depending on their progress.
To do an intensive two-week camp, which is a finalizing period for the boys, they must receive special permission from their schools to be excused from classes.
From that camp, two boys will be chosen to compete in either the Spanish FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Championship race in Spain or in the Junior World Championship that starts in Estoril, Portugal, in March 2018.
The other three successful candidates will race in two different series throughout the year – the Malaysian Cub Prix and the KTM RC390 Cup Asia – before they find out if they have what it takes to develop further onto the international stage.
The riders will be in the program for at least three years, with the hope they grow into Malaysian champions in the CEV, Moto3, Moto2 and even MotoGP in future.