Daim moves up a gear

SINGAPORE - As he rolled out of the garage in his Formula BMW FB02 onto the Sepang International Circuit, Daim Hishammudin had only one thing on his mind:

Do not stall the engine.

It was the 15-year-old Singaporean's first time in a single-seater Formula car and, on Friday, all eyes were on him.

This is, after all, one of Asia's finest junior go-karters - having won the Rotax Max Asia Championship in the past two years - who was taking the next step to becoming a Formula One driver.

He said with a laugh: "My main worry was to not stall the car. It was in front of everyone, who were watching me go away for the first time."

His fears were soon allayed as the Caterham Racing Academy member took to the 1.2 litre 140 horsepower engine with natural ease, reaching up to 200kmh at times.

With a 0 to 100kmh acceleration in less than four seconds and a top speed of 230kmh, the FB02 is a different animal from the 150kmh go-karts which Daim is used to.

He said: "It is a completely different ball game. I have to think about so many different things like weight transfer, the gears going in and out of curves, where to brake and so on.

"I just can't wait to get into the car for a few more times before the race season starts."

The Jakarta-based British International School student will be taking his O-level examination in May before he fires off in the first of the three-legged Asia Cup Series, which is held in Sepang.

There, he will compete in an international field of 24 racers from around the world.

Said Firhat Mokhzani, managing director of Malaysian racing team Meritus, which organises the competition: "I had high expectations of Daim because of his go-karting achievements and after watching him for just one day, he absolutely fulfilled them.

"It will be a tough first season for him as he is going up against more experienced racers but I expect that at the end of the season, he will be somewhere in the middle or even the top."

Many Formula One drivers like four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel also started off in Formula BMW cars before moving on to the top tier.

The plan for Daim, who is a two-time The Straits Times Star of the Month winner (September 2013 and October 2012), is to compete in the Asia Cup series for two years, said his father Hishammudin Hasan.

Following that, he will hopefully graduate into the F3 class, then the GP2, before arriving at the grandest stage of all motor-car racing - the F1.

This article was published on April 13 in The Straits Times.

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