After a successful and somewhat surprising MotoGP test at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit at Buriram, 23-year-old Hafizh Syahrin has been officially named as the rider who will replace Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech3 Yamaha squad for the 2018 season, after the German rider withdrew due to illness.
Syahrin will be the first Malaysian to compete in the premier class and said he was “incredibly delighted” to prove himself to earn a place in the squad alongside French fast man Johann Zarco.
“In just a short time, I really learned to fully control a MotoGP bike, which is still unbelievable for me,” the Malaysian talent said.
“I’ll try to do my best and will give all I have this year.
“I want to thank Hervé [Poncheral], Yamaha, Monster and the entire Tech3 team to believe in me and giving me this fantastic opportunity to compete full season in MotoGP.”
Thailand was his first-ever taste of a MotoGP machine but he worked methodically to adjust to the unique demands of the machine and to gradually improve and reduce his lap times.
On the opening day of the test, the Malaysian turned 70 laps with a best lap of 1m33.165s, 2.3 seconds off the pace of Day 1 pacesetter Cal Crutchlow.
He completed 49 laps on the second day to slice 1.2sec off his personal best (1m31.998s) and reduce the gap to the front to two seconds flat.
On the last day, Syahrin’s 47 laps had him 1.7sec off Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, reducing his lap time by a further 0.5sec with a best of 1m31.537s.
It’s worth noting Syahrin finished almost 0.1sec quicker on the final day than five-time world champ Jorge Lorenzo who after 68 laps couldn’t do better than 1m31.627s.
The Malaysian rider’s crew chief, Nicolas Goyon, said he was surprised by his adaptability and willingness to learn.
“We didn’t really know what to expect, but we are all surprised, and it’s a good surprise, because he listened to us, he changed his way of riding from the start of the test, and this is good for us,” Goyon said.
“It wasn’t an easy weekend for him, and we must remember that the last time he rode a bike was in Moto2 last year in Valencia.
“New circuit, new bike, everything is new, but I think his natural style suits this bike quite well as he’s quite smooth, which is perfect for the Yamaha.”
Syahrin’s second outing will come at the third and final pre-season test in Qatar on 1-3 March, two weeks before the opening round of the 2018 season.