This year’s MotoGP season it’s already an historic one for Malaysia, with local rising star rider Hafizh Syahrin getting a full-time seat in one of the best teams in the paddock, the Monster Yamaha Tech3, run by charismatic team manager Hervé Poncharal.
When Tech3 got the news from Jonas Folger that he wasn’t able to race this year due to illness, Hervé Poncharal had to dig deep to find another rider to replace Folger with little time to spare before the first race of the year in Qatar, and although many pointed to more experienced riders that could give Tech3 immediate results, Poncharal surprised by choosing Hafizh Syahrin.
And the fact is that the young Malaysian has already shown promising signs of his potential, and already has two points to his name after an excellent 14th place in Qatar.
The “Pescao” was Hervé Poncharal first choice right after testing in Buriram, and talking to MotoGP.com the French team manager explained why he chose Syahrin, saying he was looking to get some excitement by signing a rookie to MotoGP
“When you choose a rider, there is always an element of risk. I like people who take risks and I do it too. In competition, you have to like the challenge – if you don’t, you’re in the wrong place. Instead of signing a top rider, because I can’t, I prefer to take a risk on something that could turn out exciting. All the good riders were contracted: 30-year-old riders with a lot of experience, and I respect that, and I knew they could be competitive but that we’d have a plain season, without too much excitement”.
Hervé Poncharal goes even further and explains that everyone thought he was joking when he talked about Hafizh Syahrin, but he wasn’t going to give up on the Malaysian rider
“I met Ahmad Razali, the CEO of Sepang, and talking to him I had a crazy idea. I asked him, ‘What about Syahrin in MotoGP?’ He thought I was joking. The sponsors and suppliers were asking me who I was talking about; they’d never heard of him. From then on I had to convince everyone that he was a good rider. And I would have continued even if there had been more resistance. We’re here to enjoy ourselves”.
But Syahrin wasn’t the obvious choice. Why choose him and is Poncharal happy with the choice he made?
“I’m really happy. I’m not saying he’s going to be the fastest but he’s doing well. I like choosing a rider who isn’t very well known, but we saw last year he has some spark”, says Hervé Poncharal. “Last year when I was following Xavi Vierge, and I saw him fighting with him, I saw there was potential there with Syahrin. With human support and good bike, I had to try. I don’t like making the obvious choice”.