Singing praises of Malaysian racer Hafizh Syahrin’s performance during the MotoGP Winter Test in Buriram, Thailand, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team manager Herve Poncharal says he wants Hafizh on the team roster for 2018. Finishing in 22nd position on combined timesheets, Hafizh, also known as “Pescao 55”, was only 1.7 seconds away from the fastest time set by Dani Pedrosa of Repsol Honda Team.

While other rookies in this year’s MotoGP have had three sessions on the bike, Buriram was Hafizh’s first encounter with top-flight machinery, and he is the first Malaysian to compete in MotoGP. “It was a good surprise,” says Poncharal of his most recent debutant.

“You have to keep in mind that Hafizh was absolutely unprepared, that he was heading for his Moto2 project…But Razlan Razali agreed to trust us with his rider for these three days of testing. I also want to thank him. Getting to MotoGP is every rider’s dream,” Poncharal said.

With the next test in Qatar happening on March 1, Poncharal is pushing hard for team partners to come to an agreement about hiring Hafizh. “I want to keep him for the 2018 season, but I have to first convince all my partners. Right now there’s nothing decided, but I won’t hide the fact that I’d be very disappointed if we can’t come to an agreement,” he said.

23-year old Hafizh, who hails from Ampang, stepped into the slot left vacant by the injury-caused departure of Jonas Folger. Hafizh made a surprise departure from SIC Racing Team recently, where he was supposed to compete in Moto2, with his position taken by Zulfahmi Khairuddin.