Ahead of the fourth round at Autodromo Algarve in Spain on July 4 of this year’s eight-round 2021 FIM CEV championship, paultan.org spoke to Malaysian FIM CEV Moto 3 racer Syarifuddin Azman, known as Damok to fans. Having taken his first ever win in the CEV Moto 3 class the previous round in Catalunya, Damok was in high spirits and confident during the interview.

“Yes, the last race was good for me, it gave me a lot of confidence winning the race,” said Damok who rides for SIC Racing Monlau Motorsports on a Honda NSF250R. Asked about the circumstances under which he won, where the front runners went in hot for the final corners allowing Damok to slip through, the 20-year old lad from Puchong, Selangor was sanguine about what happened.

“There was an opportunity, so I took it, that is racing,” he says, “I was following the lead group and the opening was there.” Damok admits such chances are few and far between in racing, and what happened the previous race is perhaps once in a season.

“While I took the race win, I realise I have to work even harder. The level of competition in CEV Moto 3 is fierce, and everyone wants to do their best in hope of promotion (to CEV Moto 2 or MotoGP Moto 3),” Damok said. “For me, the training, mental and physical, is key to winning races. I don’t want to comment on other Malaysian riders who have reached this level, and stop on the way to the top,” he continued.

The role of the team is important to a racer’s success and Damok believes communication with his crew chief and crew is paramount. “I have a good relationship with my crew chief, he listens to my feedback and gives me the best setup possible,” said Damok.

“My team is good, they know racers are stressed on race day, and they make allowances for that. Like. sometimes, after a hard race, they tell me, go and rest, we will have the debrief later,” Damok said. “I appreciate that, it shows they understand what racers go through and will help me work around it.”

“But sometimes, communication can be difficult, when people speak different languages. It is up to me to adapt and learn their ways and culture and language so that we can be more effective as a team,” Damok added. The issue of communication and mental strength has risen in the past with Malaysian racers, some of whom have reached the top flight only to have ultimate success elude them.

“My coach is important, he keeps me focused on my training and the upcoming race,” said the Malaysian CEV racer. “I try not to follow the mistakes others have made, I focus on myself, what I need to do for the race, what I need to do for my (racing) career,” he said with conviction.

Looking forward to the upcoming CEV race, Damok says he has a clear race strategy in mind. “I noticed, the Spanish riders especially, they will charge hard early on in the race, very hard. When it is near the end, they make mistakes or the bike gives issues,” said Damok.

“For me, I will stay with the lead group through the first half of the race, then mid-race, I will start to strategise, looking for weak points and openings,” he continued. “Near the end, I will charge and push my way forward to the finish line,” Damok said.

“There are riders faster than me, who have raced for many more years,” said the young rider who began his professional racing career in 2016 campaigning in the Malaysia Cub Prix, then proceeding to the Asia Talent Cup. “But I think my strength is, I watch and analyse, every rider has a weakness and it is up to me to use it to my advantage.”

At FIM CEV championship level, fellow Malaysian Adam Norrodin rides in FIM CEV Moto 2 for Liqui Moly Intact SIC Racing Team. Alongside Syarifuddin and Adam, Hakim Danish and Sharul Ezwan Mohd Sharil campaign in European Talent Cup, overseen by SIC Racing team manager Zulfahmi Khairuddin.