Yoong, who started racing at 19, was 22 when F1 first came to Malaysia shores in 1999. In 2001, he made the cut, making his debut as a Minardi driver at the F1 Italian Grand Prix. — Malay Mail picYoong, who started racing at 19, was 22 when F1 first came to Malaysia shores in 1999. In 2001, he made the cut, making his debut as a Minardi driver at the F1 Italian Grand Prix. — Malay Mail picSEPANG, Oct 2 — You see him beaming out of television screens on race weekends, giving a blow-by-blow account of F1 races.

But long before Alex Yoong became a presenter for Fox Sport Asia, he made the nation proud by being the only Malaysian to have raced in F1.

Yoong started racing at 19 and was no stranger to racing around tracks when F1 first came to Malaysia shores in 1999.

By then, Yoong was already 22 years old and it wasn’t long before his talent and experience put him in the running as a legitimate racer.

In 2001, Yoong made his debut as a Minardi driver at the Italian Grand Prix replacing Tarso Marques.

His teammates included Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

Yoong had strong local backing and established an image for himself as a pioneer.

On the forefront of Malaysia’s last F1 race, Yoong said there was no easy solution to birthing a new formidable local driver.

“Obviously, with the race in Malaysia coming to an end, I am sad but I also see it as a chance for a new beginning in the motorsports industry here,” he told Sunday Mail.

“There are no shortcuts but I hope we can channel more energy into supporting new championships, teams and riders and drivers. This will prove to be the driving force of our future success if we are to continue motorsport seriously in the country.”

Asked which country could possibly “replace” Malaysia in the F1 racing calendar, Yoong said he saw countries like Vietnam or Thailand as future hosts.

He also said his fondest memories in F1 was being able to do it at his home circuit.

“Racing in front of my home fans was an experience I will never forget. It was very special and it is very hard to describe,” he said.

Post-F1, Yoong continued to race in other series including A1 Grand Prix, Le Mans Series and GP2.

He is a three-time champion of the Audi R8 LMS Cup.

Yoong was among the nine people to be inducted into the Malaysian Motorsports Hall of Fame earlier this year.



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