As Malaysia’s first motorcycle racer to enter the MotoGP class with Tech 3 racing, Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah (23), and better known to fans as “El Pescao”, has seen a surge in his popularity and fan base. Whilst covering the opening round of the 2018 Petronas Malaysia Cup Prix championship in Tangkak, Johor, paultan.org had the chance to catch up with Hafizh in an exclusive.

Now in his rookie season in MotoGP riding with a satellite team, Hafizh has found himself in a unique position as a racer, as the place pretty much fell into his lap after Jonas Folger pulled out of the 2018 race season due to injury. Asked if he had issues adapting to the Yamaha YZR-M1 race machine, Hafizh said, “yes, the bike is very different, nothing can be compared. The power, the handling, the traction, the braking. All are different from Moto2.”

Hafizh says due the massive differences between the MotoGP and Moto2 bikes, he has had to change and adapt his riding style. “I was forced to make a big change in the way I ride and I had to do it quickly although it was not too difficult, but I still have a lot to learn,” Hafizh said.

With two championship points from his first race in Qatar, Hafizh says the result was unexpected. “My target was merely to finish the race, I was not expecting the points. But I put my motivation and passion into the race and with the full support of the team, I was very happy with the result,” he said.

Aiming for “Rookie of the Year” for this season, Hafizh promises to fight hard, aware of the fact that he is flying the Malaysian flag at the very top level of two-wheeled motorsport. He is working on his physical fitness for now, saying he is not facing any other challenges with regards to ancillary items such as diet or weather.

Rounding out the interview, Hafizh praised the establishment of a racetrack in Tangkak, and lauded the move to increase the number of tracks around the country, saying that it would encourage racers to do it in the proper place, not on public roads. For up-and-coming young Malaysian riders, Hafizh says, “you must have passion, motivation and discipline, you have to give 200% effort in racing, not play the fool.”