MCA Rewind – Fabian Looi
The Racing Legend and his Motor Oil
MCA had the privilege to catch up with Fabian Looi, a champion Singapore Grand Prix racer whom at the young age of 18 won his first Clubmans Race at Shah Alam on a Yamaha RD350 and has continued his racing and winning legacy for two decades in the Malaysian and international GP circuit.
When we first met up with Fabian, his initial quiet and humble demeanor pleasantly surprised us, and as our conversations with him progressed, we realized that it was a reflection of the inner confidence of a veteran Grand Prix rider. Fabian Looi has represented the aspirations of many Singapore racers in GP events, racing locally in Selangor and Johor Malaysia, Penang, and as far away as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, isle of Man, West Germany, Macau, Indonesia, Brunei and even India. He has rubbed shoulders (and bike fairings) with the likes of Wayne Gardner, Randy Mamola and Mike Baldwin, all world championship contenders at the time.
So Fabian, when did you first come to know about MOTUL?
I started using MOTUL oils when I was racing professionally in 1980s, we decided to use the best engine oil out there and MOTUL was the best choice. There is a major difference when you are using engine oils in racing. When your bike is going full throttle and you are at redline for prolonged periods of time, there is a significant level of engine wear at the extremes. The best oil is essential for three main areas of the motorcycle engine; the oil flows through the crankcase, lubricates your gears and smoothens the engine pistons. It has to find the best compromise between lubrication and resistance as both is required by different parts of the engine.
What was the greatest achievement for you as a GP racer?
Well, I had a pretty satisfying and chequered career, having achieved overall 1st placings in the 1981-88 GP main events in Indonesia, Penang, and Malaysia, but the one best memory was the time that I was given the honor to ride a $250,000 YAMAHA YZR500 factory machine in 1986, brought in especially for me by Hong Leong Yamaha. This was a full-blown GP bike, which only another non-factory rider has ever been allowed to ride on at that time. The guys at Yamaha Corporation must have thought something of me, as I was the only rider outside Japan and World championship series to be allowed to ride the factory bike. I hope I didn’t disappoint them as I rode the bike to overall 2nd and 3rd placings behind the Lucky Strike World Championship Team at the Johor Pasir Gudang Circuit. I then rode the same bike to overall 1st placings in the Johor GP in 1987 and 1988.
How did MOTUL play a part in the local Motor GP?
In fact MOTUL supported me when there were no sponsors for certain races. I sort of developed a relationship with the brand and have been using them ever since. However, I didn’t choose MOTUL out of their support for us, I was convinced of their oil’s superiority and performance after trying out various types of lubricants on my race bikes over the years. When customers ride into my shop Gerry Looi Motorcycles for quality repairs and performance tuning services, I readily recommend MOTUL oils as I know they will appreciate it for the type of riding and motorcycle performance they require.
Does MOTUL really make a difference?
If you compete in top-level races like me, you will begin to appreciate the full advantages of MOTUL oil film. MOTUL’s synthetics are more stable than mineral lubricants and MOTUL really is the best oil when it’s subjected to tremendous sustained pressures and temperatures, especially in a motorcycle race. Most of today’s Superbike engines are designed to reduce friction without the assistance of the lubricant. However if you do use the engine to its maximum on the track, you’ll definitely feel MOTUL’s benefit in the lightness of the engine. The better the quality of the lubricant, the greater the protection it delivers and that is a fact I can attest to many times on the track.
So is MOTUL more suitable for track use or performance machines only?
I would say that MOTUL is a premium brand and there are many different MOTUL oil varieties that you can choose from for both track and road use. In fact the conditions that one encounters on the road can be pretty extreme, especially with the high humility and Singapore heat. Road use motorcycles and engines are in operation considerably longer on the road than in a race and MOTUL has the versatility for both applications, with its range of high quality unblended lubricants. Some riders can tell the difference when using MOTUL oils such as the engine being smoother and gears shifts quieter but it’s basically up to the individual.
Thanks Fabian for your take on MOTUL oils. Any parting words to all the motorcycle racers out there?
Whether you use big bikes or small bikes for the track or road, most important tool you can use is not the motorcycle but your mind. Most people that are not in the racing circuit think that it’s all about guts and reflexes but I say a sharp and intuitive mind can make the difference in your technique and race strategy. Using a clear mind can also improve your safety and foresee dangers on the road and track. Visualise on what you want to do on the track and stay focused while you are doing it. At speeds up to 260km/hr, a moment’s distraction can end in a crash or tragedy. If motorcycle racing is your dream then go do it. A thousand mile race begins with the first flag off.
Feature and pictures from Motor Culture Asia Issue #2 (2006) Singapore Edition.