SINGAPORE - Arsyad Rusydi's parents may have barred him from taking a motorcycle licence for another 15 years, but they are happy to see him zip around a race circuit on a minibike - and for good reason.
After impressing in minibike races across the Causeway, the 16-year-old Singaporean was selected to compete in the Asia Dream Cup (ADC), a six-leg regional series which adopts the more powerful, fuel-injected Honda CBR250R machine.
An even bigger prize awaits at season's end: the top eight out of 19 budding speedsters will earn a Moto3 test, performing in front of officials from teams just two rungs below the premier MotoGP class.
No Singaporean has reached this level, let alone competed in the world-renowned MotoGP series that boasts the likes of six-time world champion Valentino Rossi and Spanish hotshots Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
Arsyad, who is the second Singaporean after Muhd Jazil to feature in the three-year-old ADC, said: "I believe I have the skill and the drive to be the first from our country to ride in MotoGP one day."
It is a lofty goal, though the chirpy daredevil has shot out of the starting blocks.
Just three years after father Shaharum Sulaiman, a motorcycle enthusiast, bought him a minibike, the youngster won a major youth trophy.
He clinched the Best of the Best title at the 2011 Ayer Hitam Motorsports Carnival, on top of being crowned the overall winner in the four-race Econsave Championship held in the south of Malaysia that same year.
Minibikes may look kiddy, but they can hit top speeds of 80kmh and require precise balance to pull off the gravity-defying, knee- scraping turns that is trademark to the sport.
Malaysia's rising star Hafizh Syahrin, 19, currently competing in the second-tier Moto2 series, was among those who raced alongside Arsyad.
Singapore Motor Sports Association president Tan Teng Lip said: "For his age, Arsyad's results have been quite impressive so far.
"We hope the ADC will be the beginning of big things for him and Singapore motor sports."
Having completed his O levels at Whitley Secondary School last year, Arsyad is taking the year off books to concentrate on wheels.
He has received strong support from his family, who make weekly trips to Johor Baru for Arsyad's practices, as there are no proper circuits in Singapore.
The balcony of their four-room flat in Toa Payoh has been converted into a garage with three minibikes in various states of service. The living room is dotted with race trophies won by Arsyad and brothers Aqil, 19 and Aiman, 14, while family fun-time revolves around playing the MotoGP PlayStation game.
"I'm all for Arsyad pursuing motor racing as a career - as long as it's done under controlled conditions," said mother Mazlindah Abdul Ma'moon, a 44-year-old product manager.
Since Arsyad took up the sport three years ago, the family have forked out almost $30,000 - mainly on equipment and travel expenses.
They hope sponsors will ease the burden of spending roughly the same amount during the ADC, which flags off on Thursday at the Sepang circuit and also includes half-hour races in Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Qatar.
Down the road, Arsyad aims to showcase his talent in the FIM-recognised Asia Road Racing Championship or the CEV Repsol International Championship, a top developmental series based in Spain. He said: "Formula One may be the in-thing in Singapore, so I hope to show that motorbikes are just as cool and exciting in the right hands."
This article was published on April 14 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.