It was some 16 years ago when racer Adi Haslam was burning rubber with his mean machine in a race. It was then at the popular Proton Silverstone Championship at Batu Tiga Circuit in Shah Alam; and Adi – then racing under the name Clatus Anthony – was always among the elite few that provided the thrills to the fans.
How things have changed – the circuit is now gone; making way for commercial infrastructures and Adi is barred from racing after an accident in a motocross race damaged his back and taking away his ability to walk; limiting his movement via a wheel chair.
But, comes tomorrow (Saturday, February 12), the 49-year old Adi, who was also a motorcycle and used to race motocross and superbike regularly, will be back on track and he is overwhelmed with joy.
“I would say that I am now the happiest man alive,” says Adi, who will be competing in the 24-hours endurance K4GP, which will be flagged off tomorrow at 12 noon at Sepang Circuit.
“I have always wanted to race; but OKU’s (handicapped) are now allowed to race in Malaysia. The rules here do not allow it on grounds of safety. However, I definitely hope that it will change. Hopefully, our participation here will be an eye-opener for all,” said Adi, who would partnering former TV host Ras Adiba Radzi, also a handicapped.
Apart from Adi and Ras, there would be 30 other Japanese handicapped drivers in the race, which had attracted a participation of 45 compact cars and a total of 270 drivers that would include SIC’s Chief Executive Officer Dato Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali and a host of top Malaysian drivers.
“Like me, Ras is also overjoyed to race. She loves motorsports as well and is really looking forward not only to race; but to send a message,” said Adi, who would be partnering four experienced drivers – Keifli Othman, Mohd Zaid Samsuri, Mohamad Dazreen and Halim Muazzam Ayob, who is Adi’s racing protégé.
“The message that we want to tell Malaysia is that OKU’s should be allow the opportunity to race. I have always wanted and made appeals to compete in the MMER; but was rejected,” said Adi in reference to the 12-hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race, which would be held in September this year.
“I still hold hopes to compete in the MMER,” said Adi, who runs Adi Haslam Motorsports and is always seen at the circuit at major races like the MMER, Malaysian Super Series and the Sepang 1000-Kilometer endurance race; usually in support of Halim.
“I must truly thank Halim and New Wing Energy for their support in our participation at the K4GP. They helped built the car to allow both Ras and me to compete in this race,” said Adi, who also thanked Naza-Kia for sponsoring a Kia Picanto for the event.
Adi, who was paralysed after falling in a motocross race in Johor in 1997, said that his hopes to return to race re-ignited when he visited Japan and catch the K4GP race there.
“It was sad when I returned home and compared our country to Japan, where not just in racing but overall, it is so much a disabled-friendly country. Over here, I had been trying for so long to get a competition licence; but to no avail,” he said.
While noting that K4GP was more of a recreational racing event, Adi said that the target set by the team would be to win.
“I always race to win and that clearly had not changed in me. I am here to fly the Malaysian flag and to carry the message of the handicapped. Hopefully, we also hope that the win would convince our sponsor Naza-Kia to present us the race car.
“But, we also want to have fun … we need a good strategy as it’s a long race – 24 hours and we need to utilize our fuel well,” Adi said, adding that the regulation set a maximum usage of 350 liters.
Having raced both cars and bikes in the 1990s, the 42-year old Ras said she was really looking forward to the race, which is held once in two years in Sepang and promoted by Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). It will be the third edition of the K4GP in Sepang.
“My passion has always been cars and bikes, which I actively pursued before I became disabled in 1995. This is the first time I’m entering a race as a disabled driver and I’m really excited about it. But sadly, from Malaysia there will be just two of us.
“If the sport is so open to the disabled in Japan, then we want to make a statement by entering this race and showing that we can do it here in Malaysia too,” said Ras, who had been very active in campaigning for the rights of the handicapped.
Prior to the flag-off at noon, the drivers and teams would have a two-hour practice session from 8am. The race ends at 12 noon on Sunday.
The K4GP is an event tailored for enthusiasts with grids of up to 250 cars in Japan. The series is open to all makes of cars up to 1,300cc, with teams made up of between two and eight drivers who run stints over 24 hours after which the car that completes the most number of laps is declared the winner.
For more details, contact SIC Head of Corporate Communications Azhar Ghazali at 019-3837865 or the National Press Officer Norlina Ayob at 019-3174555.