The MotoGP paddock were extremely enthusiastic about their return to Indonesia. The series had long wanted to return to a country which is at the heart of the MotoGP fanbase in Southeast Asia. Once at Mandalika, the teams and riders loved the setting and the scenery, and were very positive about the layout of the track. It was fast, and it was fun.
They were less happy about the surface of the track. It was filthy on arrival, with mud and dust all over the track, and the riders were forced to make laps on the first day of the test to clean it up, creating a single racing line. Once clean, the track had plenty of grip.
However, that exposed a different problem. The surface was wearing very rapidly, especially in high acceleration and braking areas like the first and last corner. The aggregate was breaking up, pulling stones and stone chips out of the surface, and throwing them up into the faces and bodies of following riders. Pecco Bagnaia showed off a large welt on his arm, where he had been struck by a loose stone, Alex Marquez showed us a similar mark in his throat during his zoom debrief, and many riders, among them Fabio Quartararo, complained of having stones thrown up into their necks, especially.
The problem, according to specialists involved in track design, is the aggregate used in construction contained stones which are too soft. These stones were already crushed in the process of laying the surface, and the forces generated by MotoGP bikes were pulling these stones out of the surface and throwing them up into the path of the riders behind.
The issue wasn't unique to MotoGP. Now retired Ducati WorldSBK rider Chaz Davies noted on Twitter that they had suffered similar problems when the production series visited the track back in November last year.
In the Safety Commission held at Mandalika, the riders demanded action. Initially, they had asked for the race to be moved to July, giving the track enough time to be resurfaced, but that request was rejected. However, conditions were so severe, that something had to be done.
Today, the FIM announced that the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation, who are running the Mandalika project, have agreed to resurface part of the track from Turn 17 (the final corner) through to Turn 5. This is the area where the problems with stones were the worst. The resurfacing work is to be carried out before the Indonesian MotoGP due to be held on March 20th. In addition, the ITDC will oversee preparation of the entire surface, ensuring it is clean and in good enough shape to host a grand prix.
Four weeks is very short notice to resurface a track. A significant amount of effort will be needed to make it happen, but there is a lot of construction still happening at the site, as building on infrastructure in the region continues. That is also leading to disputes with local landowners, as farmers are being bought out of their properties, but the Indonesian system of 'Konsinyasi' means that disputes over purchase amounts leave them without land and without the money they are owed for significant periods of time. For farmers living close to subsistence levels, this has made life very difficult, with cases being highlighted in Indonesian media.
The lack of infrastructure is a problem in other ways too. Accommodation in the area is very limited, and the roads in the surrounding area are also still under construction. MotoGP needs to go to Indonesia, because of the outsized importance of the market for the sport. But there is still a lot of work to do before the area around the track can cope with the massive influx of people, including fans and team staff, that hosting a race involves.
The press release appears below:
FIM, Dorna and ITDC agree track improvements or Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit
The pre-season Official MotoGP™ Test at Pertamina Mandalika International Circuit saw the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship return to Indonesia for the first time in 25 years. The three days of track time were invaluable for the riders, teams and organisation, allowing all parties to gain experience at the new circuit before the inaugural Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia.
The three-day test has also given the organisation and governing body the opportunity to ensure the venue complies with MotoGP™ standards and assess any improvements necessary ahead of the track’s debut on the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship calendar.
The feedback from riders and teams regarding the layout of the track and its safety standards, including the extensive runoff areas of both tarmac and gravel, has been overwhelmingly positive.
During the test, two areas of improvement were identified, which are the cleanliness of the track surface and the excess of aggregate affecting parts of the circuit.
The FIM, which oversees track homologation, has been in communication with the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) regarding these necessary improvements, which are to be implemented a minimum of seven days before the inaugural Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia.
Circuit owner ITDC has agreed with the FIM’s assessment and requests, demonstrating their high level of support and commitment to the sport. All parties have reacted quickly and work towards these improvements is already underway, including the resurfacing of part of the track.
The circuit will be resurfaced from the section before Turn 17 until after Turn 5. The venue will also prepare for the Grand Prix by employing world leading technology to ensure the entirety of the surface meets MotoGP™ standards.
The FIM and Dorna would like to thank the ITDC for their incredible support and prompt reaction. All parties would also like to assure our Indonesian fans, and all those around the world, that the 2022 Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia will take place on the planned date, and MotoGP™ is very much looking forward to returning to Lombok.