THE FIRST TIME I laid eyes on it, a few questions popped up in my mind:
How could a thing so small and tiny hold so much weight?
Would I actually need a license to drive it?
Where can I get one?
First popular in the 1950s, pocketbikes have been gaining renewed interest worldwide, particularly in Japan and Europe. Currently, this sport is beginning to gain some interest here in Kuching.
Founded in 2012, the Matang Extreme Automotive Club (MEAC) was established by Musa Kotot, who is president of the club with deputy chief of Gita, Sergeant Major Mohd Din Ismail (vice president), Amerul Sharawana (secretary) and Ibrahim Basen (committee member) specifically to take part in pocketbike racing events.
According to Amerul, there are three types of pocketbikes based on their engine types: the QT minibike (the most basic with 50cc power), air-cooled minibikes (air cooling system with 50 cc to more than 110cc power) and water-cooled minibikes (liquid cooling system with 50cc to more than 110 cc power).
Good news: You don’t need a license to drive it.
Bad news: You’re not allowed to use it on public roadways.
In 2012, MEAC sent four riders to participate in the Formula KBS (Kementerian Belia dan Sukan) at the Speedway PLUS Elite Circuit in Subang where they managed to snatch third and fourth place. They landed fifth place the following year and in 2014, the riders managed to clinch a spot as one of the top five finalists during the open championship in Labuan.
Currently, the club has seven active and competent riders from ages of 8-14 with 30 adult members (including all the committee members).
“One of the good reasons for kids to join this club is that it keeps them away from illegal driving on the streets and also for them to learn about safety while driving a motorcycle,” said Mohd Din.
On May 24-25, registered and insured participants from ages 7 to 16 participated in the Minibike and Go-Kart Clinic 2014 at Sukmaria parking lot organised by Kementerian Belia dan Sukan (KBS), MEAC and Velocity-Go Karting Kuching from 8 am till 4 pm.
To join, the participants had to meet a height requirement of more than 130 cm/4 feet, have basic knowledge and skills in riding a bicycle (for the pocketbike course), be appropriately dressed (long pants, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and jacket), no health issues and consent from parents.
As the clinic was jointly organised by MAEC and Velocity-Go Karting Kuching, the participants could choose between go-karting or riding a pocketbike. Children from the age of 8 to 12 years old were allowed to ride the minibike while those from ages of 10 to 16 were allowed to try the go-kart.
According to Mohd Din, the two-day clinic aimed to teach the children on the importance of road safety, obeying road laws and wearing safety gear like helmets. Aside from that, with this workshop he aimed to implement discipline on the road which is also applicable in their daily lives, he added.
Although it was raining Saturday morning, it didn’t dampen the spirit of as many as 44 enthusiastic kids gathered at the Sukmaria parking lot for a firsthand experience of riding a pocketbike or a go-kart since most of them had never ridden them before.
Before taking them for a joyride, the participants were briefed by the volunteer instructors on basic components of the pocketbike and go karts as well how to handle them while on the road.
Besides learning how to accelerate or decelerate a pocketbike which can go up to speeds of 40-60 km/hr, the children were also introduced to the different kinds of flags used on the track. The green flag, ‘Go’, shows that the road ahead while the red flag signals ‘Stop’ and the yellow flag indicates danger or obstacles ahead. Another flag also introduced was the blue flag which is used in a minibike competition to signal that a rider should give way to another rider as the latter is one lap ahead of the former.
For 14-year-old Mohd Syahid of SMK Demak Baru who found out about the workshop from a friend who is a pocketbike enthusiast, this was his first time go-karting and he was thrilled about the experience.
While Lucas Jerome, 14, of SMK Matang Jaya said that he had already been driving go-karts for two years now, first-timer Austin Gubar, 13, noted that the hardest part about go-karting was handling the steering wheel but he found the whole experience exhilarating.
For Noim Lanjis, the state Development Officer of Recreational Sports JBS Sarawak, the workshop was also a chance for them to scout new talents that could represent the state for the upcoming Formula KBS at Subang at the end of this year.
Noim added that construction on a new circuit located in Matang for both go-karts and pocketbikes was in progress. It’s tentatively slated to be open for public use by next year. Noim hoped that by opening the circuit, go-kart and pocketbike enthusiasts could make good use of it as well as gain public interest in the sport.
The MEAC are hoping to get more funds and support from companies and also the public as well as gain help and support from police enforcement to continue with the exciting and adrenalin-pumping sport.
To know more about Matang Extreme Automotive Club, feel free to visit their facebook page here.