Cub Prix shows one can achieve success without govt help, funding

It was a gathering of sorts at the M Resort and Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, last Friday.

For some, it was a chance to relive the excitement of blasting through the corners on the race tracks with the throttle wide open, near misses, and close shaves, while for others, it was the anticipation of what was in store.

Familiar faces on the tracks, often seen in racing gear, shorts, cargo pants, or T-shirts, traded in their usual garb for the more sedate jackets, batik shirts, pants, and dresses.

The ballroom, with several underbone motorcycles lining up the entrance, had a classy vibe to it. This event was to celebrate Malaysian Cub Prix’s 30th anniversary.

The main man behind the national series is none other than Ron Hogg, the promotions director of Safe Aim Mutual.

“Time flies, doesn’t it? It (turning 30) still hasn’t really sunk in yet, to be honest,” said Ron, in jest.

Ron has been in the business long enough to know the pain and struggle of the game.

“There’s no secret to success, it’s just hard work and staying relevant in the game.”

The Cub Prix series has, for over 30 years, survived on investments by industry players. Motorsports, as many know, is an expensive affair. National oil company Petronas remains the title sponsor of the series for obvious reasons. Petronas is also no stranger to supporting other sports in the country, namely badminton and basketball.

Any form of support and funding is, of course, welcomed. Ron and his team had also knocked on the Youth and Sports Ministry’s doors. However, its minister, Hannah Yeoh, who was the night’s guest of honour, revealed that her ministry had funded the Cub Prix series only once – in 2018.

The minister, however, did not reveal how much was given.

Yeoh, who assumed the portfolio last December, went on to commend the organiser for its resilience, despite the lack of government funding.

This demonstrates that if a motorcycle racing series can survive several recessions, numerous changes in government, and the Covid-19 pandemic – with funding only once from the government – the other sports associations can do so, too.

“Some people say we are lucky, that we have an industry behind us. But motorsports is an expensive business and even with the industry behind us, we still have to innovate and think outside of the box,” said Ron.

Ron addressing guests at the ballroom last Friday.

While others in Ron’s position would continue to be on cloud nine, partying hard to celebrate their 30-year run, it’s back to the grind for Ron and Co.

“The game plan for the coming years is to continue building on what we have. We sincerely believe we have the talent to develop and excel,” said Ron.

“We are also trying to change this notion that going overseas is great. We often send our riders abroad, when in fact we should be training them here. With more people training here, we will be able to achieve much more.”

Ron admitted that developing talent takes time. Former rider Shahrol Yuzy Ahmad Zaini remains a household name, having burnt rubber in the MotoGP World Championship before retiring in 2002. Several other riders, such as Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah, and Khairul Idham Pawi, had raced in Moto2 and Moto3.

Racing, according to Ron, is a team effort. He singled out Somkiat Chantra as a great example, adding the Moto2 rider from Thailand has come a long way since winning the Asia Talent Cup in 2015. Today, he is touted as the potential dark horse in his class this season.

“Not many riders and establishments have the support Chantra enjoys, where people are willing to back the rider all the way, even if it means taking seven to eight years. In Malaysia, people expect the rider to perform within two to three years.

“I’ve said this many times before … some people here are doing things the same way, and expecting different results. Don’t blame our riders (for not performing), blame those who send them (for competitions or training abroad) without support.

“Shahrol Yuzy had an entire Malaysian team with him. When you enter the world championship paddock, you need guidance, you need people to protect you. If you send a 14-year-old boy all alone, he will be eaten up alive. He needs to go with the whole team, a riding coach, a manager, a chief mechanic, and so on.”

Ron stressed that safety remains a top priority, ever since the series started, 30 years ago.

He also said steps are being taken to get more riders – especially young girls and women – into the scene.

“We’ve had discussions even before Covid-19, to get more riders, especially girls and women. The plan includes a riding academy for the girls.

“Once that is up and running, we were then supposed to initiate a women’s series as part of the Cub Prix. I can’t give you a timeline but we have certainly been exploring this.”

There are certainly key lessons to be learnt from Ron’s 30-year adventure.

Firstly, it’s about understanding the demographics of the sport, attracting investors whose market fits the said demographics, and ensuring a continued campaign so that the Cub Prix’s exhaust notes continue to be heard loud and clear.

What is also important is the need to stay relevant. This includes evolving from past methods, and ensuring that more people understand and truly appreciate the sport.

Transparency and accountability are key. Every ringgit spent by investors must be accounted for. This, in return, builds trust.

The guardians of cue sports, often sidelined and only remembered when they achieve a podium finish in the SEA Games, hosted five world meets in Kuala Lumpur last year – despite the lack of government funding. All it took was perseverance and getting the right sponsors on board.

It can be done, and when done right, will liberate sports bodies and organisers from the vagaries of politicians and their whims.

So how would Ron describe his 30 years in one word?

“Awesome!”

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