Reality check and exit cleared for Razlan as rider development stuck in vicious cycle

13 Nov 2023 04:14pm
Racers in action at the MotoGP Grand Prix Malaysia 2023 at the Petronas Sepang International Circuit, yesterday. - Photo by Bernama
Racers in action at the MotoGP Grand Prix Malaysia 2023 at the Petronas Sepang International Circuit, yesterday. - Photo by Bernama

FROM a local perspective, an otherwise dour weekend of the 33rd edition of the Petronas Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in which fans had little to celebrate on the racing front, the fraternity had Cryoptodata-RNF MotoGP Team principal Datuk Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali for fueling most of the banter which kept them entertained.

Love him or hate him, Razlan is known for coming up with humorous if not mindboggling thought concepts with regards to his own ideas on motorsports.

Again, he did not disappoint at the RNF and youth session organised by the Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM) last Wednesday, first by framing Malaysian riders' decisions to engage in wedlock early in life as a reason for their shortlived careers, then stating he did not see Malaysia having a rider in the premier MotoGP class of the World Motorcycle Championship even in 10 years.

Just what scientific evidence backs Razlan's claims about early marriage being the reason for wrecked careers, he has a chance to explain in detail when a date is set for his challenge for a live podcast with TKKR Racing team principal Datuk Bibie Farid Shamsudin and this writer, but some sports scientists consulted remain baffled by such claims.

For one, it is a moral obligation in any professional sport for athletes to be treated and respected as adults, thus family or personal matters are not for employers to determine.

Razlan stated that due to the dangerous nature of motorcycle racing, riders needed to focus 200 percent and having added responsibilities brought about by marriage would hamper their commitment.

Again devoid of scientific evidence that this is the case, as none of the sports psychologists contacted could ascertain the validity of such claims. In fact, one chose to point towards Olympic silver medal-winning track cyclist Datuk Azizulhasni Awang, whose career really took off after he got married at the age of 23 in an equally if not more physically demanding sport.

We found it hard to debate sports scientists' claims that their work is focused on human development emphasising on methods to improve performance output under all circumstances rather than managing non-sporting responsibilities, as Razlan himself has not developed riders who have reached the top of their game by refraining from early marriage. Again, a claim devoid of scientific or practical evidence.

Related Articles:

Even if athletes do face issues with non-sporting responsibilities, support mechanisms have been put in place by the National Sports Institute (NSI) with its sports psychologists who are well-equipped to help athletes overcome distractions and outside pressures especially during competition periods.

But Razlan's damning statement that Malaysia was unlikely to see a rider capable of making it to the MotoGP class even in 10 years left nobody but himself exposed.

Cryoptodata-RNF MotoGP Team principal Datuk Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali - BERNAMA FILE PIX
Cryoptodata-RNF MotoGP Team principal Datuk Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali - BERNAMA FILE PIX

While he raised the point that the current stable of riders are still at the development stage, identifying teenagers Hakim Danish, Daniah Syahmi and Qabil Irfan as cases in point, Razlan stated the investment in them should not be left halfway if they were to graduate to the World Motorcycle Championship.

This may have been framed as a harsh reality by Razlan, but questions must also be asked about what happened to Petronas' investment in the Sepang Racing Team (SRT) which he helmed as principal from 2014 until the national oil company pulled the plug in 2021.

At the launch of the team in 2014, Razlan himself proclaimed that they had created the SRT platform to provide a clear path for Malaysian riders to the world championships and having a Malaysian in the premier MotoGP class as their target.

But after eight years and with over RM200 million poured into the team, only six of the 24 riders ever fielded by the team in four classes - MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 and MotoE - were Malaysian.

The team did achieve its slots in the MotoGP class, but served to extend the list of Italian, French, British and American MotoGP class riders, not Malaysian.

In fact, halfway through it seemed SRT themselves had abandoned the commitment towards the development of Malaysian riders by fielding no Malaysians, as Razlan went on record issuing continuous derisive statements aimed at Malaysian riders.

Thus, such statements coming from Razlan now, might also be seen as an admission of failure despite the SRT programme being Petronas' single largest investment in a motorcycle team in the history of its involvement in motorsports.

All the essentials from a substantial investment to time, to government and political support had been at SRT and Razlan's disposal for eight years between 2014 and 2021, yet while it seemed to many as a golden opportunity to see a Malaysian running a full season in the premier class, the outcome was quite clearly a rather expensive disappointment for the country.

This only points to Razlan having run his race as far as rider development is concerned and it may be time for him to step aside and focus on being the sole Malaysian team principal in the MotoGP class, albeit himself unlikely to field a Malaysian rider in at least the next 10 years.

For the stakeholders, this comes as a reality check as with such a structure in place a simple backtest already shows that the sport, more so its development riders are potentially simply going through another vicious cycle with a dead end, as it is anybody's guess that 10 years from now, we might require another 10 years of full-blown investment yet left without even a semblance of a definitive outcome again.

Thus the time for ideas other than Razlan's may be long overdue.

ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL is a sportswriter, media consultant and former South East Asia representative of the International Association of Cycling Journalists (AIJC).

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.