KUALA LUMPUR: Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali has defended SIC Racing Team's decision to sign Finn Niki Tuuli as a replacement for Zulfahmi Khairuddin in the Moto2 class.
Razlan said that although the team's main objective is to groom Malaysian riders, being competitive in the championship is also at the top of the team's list of priorities.
"We do not want this team to just exist so a Malaysian can ride, we want the team to be competitive, we want the team to excel, improve and gain credibility," said Razlan.
"Unfortunately we are not able to find a suitable Malaysian that can do that (be competitive). We have searched high and low for capable Malaysian riders over the last week.
"They (Malaysian riders) have commitments with their existing teams and in the respective championships that they are taking part in. Although we offered them the option of competing in both their current championship and Moto2, they could not be released.
"As Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah has said, there are really no other Malaysian riders that can be competitive in Moto2.
"Hence why we have engaged 23-year-old Finnish rider Tuuli, and as you have seen from his profile, he has tremendous experience racing 600cc bikes.
"After consulting with Dorna and the International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA), they have agreed for Tuuli to be in our team.
"Of course, it will be on a race to race basis until later this year when we have a Malaysian rider that is capable and competitive, only then we can replace him.
"Otherwise with Le Mans this weekend, we have to name a replacement rider."
Razlan added that boosting team morale was also a key factor in their decision to bring in Tuuli.
"We want the existing crew members to be retained next year. They are currently demoralised right now, we are hoping that with such a capable replacement rider, they can prove that they can develop a rider which will allow us to be competitive as a team."
Zulfahmi – signed as a last minute replacement for Hafizh -- had struggled to make an impact, often finding himself well off the pace in the first four rounds so far this year.