“I’m happy about how Malaysia is getting behind MotoGP”


Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin wants to repeat joy of last season’s Malaysian Moto3 round.

This weekend the Malaysian Grand Prix takes place at Sepang Circuit. Last year there was a special star of the show in the form of Moto3 rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who took pole position for his home race and claimed second in the race itself. Zulfahmi Khairuddin crashed at MotorLand Aragon just over a week ago, but this will not prevent the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider from getting back on his bike and trying to do even better in front of his home fans in the 2013 Malaysian GP.

What do you remember about last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix?
“It was a very good weekend for me. From the first free practice session until the day of the race I was very strong, especially on several different parts of the circuit. I got a great hot lap in during qualifying and took the first pole position of my career. It was amazing to see all the fans who had come to encourage me. I think it was the best attended MotoGP race in Malaysia ever.”

Was it a surprise for you to be amongst the top positions right from the first free practice session?
“Yes, I was very surprised. I had a good feeling with the bike in each session and I was able to push hard to stay ahead on the timesheets. I enjoyed myself on the bike, I felt very comfortable and the team believed in me and pushed me to do well. I think this was the key to the wonderful weekend that we had.”

What is the most special memory that you have from that weekend?
“The huge amount of people who attended the Sepang Circuit. It was really amazing. The other Malaysian riders and I got so much support from them. I was very surprised, and it seemed like I was on a football pitch when a goal was scored, with their reaction. I’m very happy that the people from my country are getting behind MotoGP. I hope that this will continue in the future.”

What was the best part? The pole position or the second position in the race?
“Definitely the podium. I think I gave my all in the qualifying session, but did not expect to take pole position. However, the most important thing is to do well in the race, which is when the points are handed out.”

On a personal level, what stands out from that race?
“Right from the first lap it was all very special. But I guess that the last seven laps were the most notable; it started raining and we had to slow our pace down. However, we had to lead the race for as much time as possible, with the possibility of the red flag being shown and the race being ended prematurely. On the last lap I made a big mistake on the last corner and Sandro [Cortese] passed me”.

Do you remember any special message of congratulations?
“Many. All of them were very special; many people remembered me and I can never forget that. Also, it was my birthday! Even Valentino Rossi congratulated me on Twitter! That one definitely was one of the greetings which surprised me the most.”

What do you expect for the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix?
“I hope everything goes well and that we can be at the front in every session —and in the race. I will concentrate mainly on my riding. These days before the race I will be doing as much as possible to try to recover from the injury, doing all kinds of rehabilitation exercises, but I’m not concerned about this issue. I have to think only about the race.”

Do you think that this year’s race will be more difficult than last year’s?
“It seems that way. If you look at the races this year, the lap times have greatly improved at all races and at the Sepang Circuit this will no doubt be the same. It is also true that this year there are three riders who are out on their own; I think it is not impossible to keep up with them. I am convinced that with hard work we can be up in the top positions, however.”

Do you feel pressure when riding at home?
“Honestly, no. Obviously there is always a different kind of pressure when you are riding in your home GP, but it’s not a problem for me. I have to enjoy this opportunity, which is a real gift; not every rider gets the chance to race in front of their home fans.”

Do you prepare any differently?
“This year I have, but for the simple reason that I had a hard crash at Aragon. I’m working hard to be ready for the race.”

What are the days prior to this GP like?
“As it is my home Grand Prix, this week I have quite a lot of events and activities. However, everything is kept under control and I like the fact that I can make contact with the fans who come to watch the World Championship action.”

What ‘s your overall assessment of the season so far?
“I have to say that the results have not been as good as expected. It has been a little difficult this season, because I took some time to adjust to the new bike. We had some very good races and others less so. Despite this, the team has worked hard to find the ideal setup for me and I can now say that we are on track to finish amongst the top positions. From Misano on, my confidence and my feeling about things is better every day.”