KUALA LUMPUR: Wheelchair-bound Adi Haslam Abdullah may have been paralysed from waist down following a motocross accident 14 years ago, but his passion for the sport knows no bounds.
The Petaling Jaya-born Adi injured his spine during a motocross race in Johor Baru on Aug 9, 1997 and was hospitalised for three months.
Adi recalled that he tried to make a “double jump” but crashed.
“I tried to pick up my bike and, when I could not, I knew that I had injured my spine,” said Adi.
|Adi is in control in the driver's seat. With him is Hafiz.
“My friends visited me in hospital and asked me what I was going to do. I replied ‘to race again’.
“They said I was ‘gila’ (mad) to race again in my condition.”
But Adi, who began his career in motorsports at the age of 16 in the cub prix competition, knew he would prove them wrong.
Before the accident, Adi had competed for teams like Marlboro Yamaha and Kawasaki Lucky Strike in the World Championships in Malaysia, Japan and Europe. He even competed in the Superbikes.
So, he was not about to give up his love for the sport just like that.
In 2000, three years after the crash, he applied for a racing licence from the Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM) but was rejected as there was no licence for disabled drivers.
Instead of being discouraged, Adi continued to apply for a racing licence every year. His perseverance finally paid off when he was granted a licence to compete in the disabled category in 2005.
He was the first disabled person in Malaysia to be given a licence to compete in motor-racing.
His first race was at a go-kart event in 2005.
The 49-year-old Adi, who is single, said that racing “is my passion and I was really happy to get a disabled licence to race”.
|Adi showing the trophy he won in February and the Picanto donated by Naza Kia Malaysia. Next to him is Hafiz.
“Not even my spinal injury was going to stop me from racing again. I was able to race again simply out of sheer will power,” said Adi.
“After getting the licence, I did not have the budget to buy a go-kart and I have to thank Uncle Ah Piau (the owner of a motorcycle shop) for giving me his car’s chassis.
“I will never forget Uncle Ah Piau ... if not for him, I would not have been able to compete in the go-kart event.”
Adi said he had to make some changes to his go-kart so that it could be operated by hand.
“I did well in the races by finishing third overall. A year later, I finished second overall. But I wanted to achieve more in motorsports,” said Adi.
“I have since continued racing in go-kart and I now have my own crew and team called Adi Haslam Motorsports.
“My team competed in the K4GP Sepang 24-Hours Endurance race in February with the Picanto car and we won first place in the GP-4 category (for cards with automatic transmission) and former TV3 host Ras Abida Radzi was one of the six members in our team.”
His exploits and his never-say-die attitude has inspired many other disabled racing fans to give the sport a try. In fact, 10 disabled racers have already called him up to join his team.
“I don’t know where they got my mobile number but I am more than willing to help them to become racing drivers,” said Adi.
“And the good news is Naza Kia Malaysia Sdn Bhd have donated the RM100,000 Picanto car which we used to win the K4GP race in February to us.”
Naza Kia Malaysia’s chief operating officer Datuk Hafiz Syed Abu Bakar presented a mock key for the car to Adi at Menara Naza in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
“Not many disabled drivers here have a chance to compete in motorsports events. Now that we have our own car (the Picanto), I will be able to help the 10 disabled racers to learn how to drive and compete in motorsports,” said Adi.
He said the team would enter the Picanto in the K4GP Malaysia 4-Hour Challenge in Sepang in December and two other races next year.
This is in preparation for the K4GP Sepang 24-Hour Endurance Race in 2013.
Adi’s triumph over adversity is truly an inspiring story and one that many able-bodied athletes can learn from.