With 21 races scheduled, the 2022 MotoGP World Championship will be the biggest ever. If the current pandemic situation allows for all races on the calendar to take place, the new Mandalika circuit on the Indonesia island of Lombok will be a highlight. Some venues outside Europe have not hosted the championship since 2020, but undoubtedly one of the most eagerly awaited novelties is the return of a country that the World Championship last visited in 1997 and where the riders are idolized as real rock stars.
Indonesia has only twice hosted a Motorcycling World Championship Grand Prix: in 1996 and 1997 at the Sentul circuit, located not far from the capital of Jakarta. In its attempt to become a known venue for motorcycling competitions, starting in 1994, Sentul hosted the Superbike World Championship, and two years later, the World Speed Championship. But the Asian financial crisis of 1998 impacted the markets of the so-called “tiger cub economies” in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, which suffered severe economic consequences, thus putting an end to dealings with the Grand Prix organization.
Fortunately, that history is behind us and Indonesia, with one of the most important motorcycle industries in the world and where Japanese manufacturers have their strongest market, has once again reclaimed its place on the motorcycling spectrum. Construction on the Mandalika circuit took place in 2016. That year, Carmelo Ezpeleta’s visit to Bali confirmed that Indonesia’s return to the Grand Prix scene was going to happen, although the circumstances of the health crisis resulting from the pandemic have meant that the premiere of the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit, as it is officially called, had to be delayed until this season. Nevertheless, the Superbike World Championship race in November 2021 was responsible for its international debut, and it was a raging success.
Fast and varied
The Mandalika circuit is 4,310 meters long and has a total of 17 turns. It is an asymmetrical circuit, that is, it has more turns in one direction than in the other. There are 11 right-hand turns and only 6 left-hand turns. The main track is not very long, at 507 meters, but most of the turns are quite fast, so it would fall within what we would call a fast track, with its fairly high average speed. During pre-season training, Pol Espargaró, who set the fastest time in tests, rode at an average speed of 168.652 km/h, which places him on one of the fastest tracks in the championship.
If there is one thing that really characterizes this track, it is the succession of linked curves at good speed that require a precise and fluid line. The entry zone to the finish line is the slowest of the circuit, with two low-speed turns, in addition to turns 2 and 3, which are expected to be excellent overtaking spots.
After pre-season training last February, riders complained about the asphalt in several sections of the track, but the organization promised to immediately perform the necessary renovations, given that the Indonesian Grand Prix, the second race of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship, is to be held on March 20.
Another unique feature of Mandalika is its location: on the sea shore. We all have in mind the beautiful images of the Australian Phillip Island circuit, which in some sections offers beautiful sea views. In the case of Mandalika, the sea is even closer. Located in the south of the island at sea level, there is a section of the circuit, specifically turn 10, which is located just a few hundred meters from the beach with exceptional views.
As in all equatorial countries, the weather can play a determining role in the race’s success. Rain makes a daily appearance, and sometimes it can be torrential, as occurred in the last SBK World Championship and forced the suspension of the races on Saturday. That being said, Indonesia will always be an event open to surprise and all kinds of attractions that could change at any given time the course of the race.