KUALA LUMPUR: It is a dream come true for Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah who is looking forward to racing with his childhood idol Valentino Rossi when the MotoGP season starts at the Qatar GP on March 18.
Hafizh, who is the first Southeast Asian rider to compete in MotoGP, said he was losing hope of riding alongside his hero in the premier class prior to signing with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 on Wednesday.
"I have always believed that all the hard work and sacrifices I have made would one day allow me to compete in MotoGP, I just did not know when it would happen," said the 23-year-old.
"It had crossed my mind that I might not be able to do it (race with Rossi) as he is advancing in age and he might retire before I get the chance.
"Being able to race in MotoGP this year itself was really surprising and did not even cross my mind until it happened recently.
"Obviously, I am very excited about racing with Rossi, who is a true legend in the sport. It definitely gives me that added motivation to do better.”
Rossi, who turned 39 earlier this month, is a nine-time world champion with seven of those titles having come in the premier class. He races with the Yamaha factory team. Tech 3 is a Yamaha satellite team.
Hafizh said: "Just earlier this year I was training in the woods in Spain with Adam Norrodin (a Moto3 rider) and our fitness trainer.
"Adam asked me if I did well in Moto2 this year and was given a chance to race in MotoGP next year, which team would I prefer to join?
"Without hesitation I told him I would want to join Yamaha because their bikes are easier to ride. I can't believe it has actually come true."
Despite Tech 3 being based in Southern France, Hafizh has chosen to remain at Sepang International Circuit's (SIC) training base in Spain together with Moto2 and Moto3 riders Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Adam.
Hafizh disclosed that he is more comfortable with the language and the weather in Spain and is not keen on readjusting to life in France.