Jazeman Jaafar

Going on the right track

Article from the Sun daily by Marion Fernando (posted on 18 September 2018)

PROFESSIONAL racing driver Jazeman Jaafar’s most memorable moment of his career was when he was standing on the podium after winning the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix, and the Negaraku filled the air.

The 25-year-old – who recently came in fourth during the first-ever all-Malaysian lineup in one of the biggest sporting events of the world, the 24-hour Le Mans race – said his passion for motorsport encompasses more than just being a racing driver.

Jazeman, who is currently with the Jackie Chan DC Racing, is also an advocate for road safety, and has a great deal of hope for the greater growth of the sport in the country.

Was it your own personal interest that got you started in motorsport?

“I’ve always liked cars. When I was a kid, about four, five years old, I started collecting Hot Wheels, and these Tamiya cars. And I love reading about [them]. I love the physics [of] it.

“One day, when one of my dad’s friends invited me to go watch a go-kart race ... I saw those cadet guys (cadet racing for young drivers) [at] eight, 12 years old driving, [and] they were about my height or so. And I was just like in awe, you know.

“It’s super cool to see that you can drive at such a young age, and eventually turn it into a career, so that’s how it started really.”

Is it expensive to be a professional racer?

“It is. It’s not a cheap sport, but the exposure and the business behind racing is what keeps it alive.

“For example, I’m racing for a team that’s owned by Jackie Chan ... The team is called Jackie Chan DC Racing. DC stands for David Cheng, who is his business partner.

“Exposure at that calibre is something money can’t buy, really.”

Ideally, what would the motorsports scene in Malaysia look like to you?

“We have an enormous amount of talent – racing drivers, engineers, mechanics, even marketers – but the platform for them to go far has been very limited.
“I would love to see more [people involved], more than just a handful.

“It is growing still. The interest and passion has always been there from the people, because I think it’s part of our culture, but the growth should be bigger than what it is now.

“I think it has to be an all-nation effort from every end, meaning the corporate-end, ministry-end, and the industrial-end ... like Proton and [so forth], as an automotive industry ... for it to go far.”

Where does your mind usually wander, right before a race?

“Before a race, I’m so focused … half an hour to an hour [before the race], I don’t talk to anyone. I’m just a bit … focused and selfish in that way.

“I listen to my music and I get into the zone. I have thoughts in my mind that help calm [me].

“I need to listen to hip-hop music because I love the beat of [it]. It calms me down. I stay super focused and I don’t like making mistakes, so I over-prepare myself in doing things right.”

What is something you think everybody should do once in their life?

“Jump off a plane! I have a terrible fear of heights. I love roller-coasters and whatever, but once it’s a cliff edge, or the verge of falling down, I’m just super scared.

“So, on my 21st birthday, I told myself, look, today I’m gonna go skydiving – I did tandem by the way – so, I called the skydiving place, and [asked] if I could get a slot [in] today.

“And I did it after lunch, so they were explaining to me all the safety features and whatever, and by 3 o’clock, I was jumping off a plane.

“I was so scared, but I fought my fears, you know, and it was the most amazing 45-second free-fall that I ever experienced.”

Was the rush similar to when you’re in a race?

“Yeah, there’s some sort of adrenaline – I’m so addicted to adrenaline, it’s quite bad – so the adrenaline rush is actually more than racing, cause [in] racing you’re in control, right? Jumping off a plane, you’re not.

“So, yeah, I think everyone should do it, at least once.”

Who has impressed you most with what they have accomplished?

“I might be a bit biased, but it has to be my late dad. He always taught me to be a fighter, and he never stopped fighting and believing in the dream … it was how he taught me discipline.

“[How] he accomplished his own business, I think, [shares] similar traits to being an athlete and racing driver, [and] shows the same success.

“So, I think, his [way] of teaching me and nurturing me, got me to where I am today. My dad has always impressed me in how he [did] things. To always achieve the impossible.”

Do you feel the need for speed, when you’re on regular roads?

“No! [laughs] Driving on the road, I’m actually fearful of others. I’ve never gotten into an accident, touch wood, which is good.

“But I’m also the vice chairman of the road safety council in Johor, so we gotta start teaching the right habits to the right people.

“The Tengku Temenggong of Johor [started] this amazing initiative to raise awareness and create what hasn’t been done before ... So, [it is] starting off in Johor, where the accident rates are very high – I think it’s the highest in Malaysia at the moment, rural areas, especially.

“As of now, [accidents] already dropped by 15%, after a year in, so I think it’s improving. It’s just getting the correct habits. [There’s] nothing wrong with the system, it’s just [some] etiquette that need to be polished.

“The safety element is a constant argument because people blame it on the road, people blame the traffic lights, people blame the car.

“[Look at] Datuk Michelle Yeoh, she’s now sitting on the board of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile), which is the international governing body of road safety. I mean, she’s doing initiatives in Africa [that has resulted in enormous improvements], but this kind of thing is a long-term thing.

“You can’t look at it in three to five years, you have to look at it in 11 to 12 years, to correct it, and it’s better now than never. I think we’re heading the right way.”

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