Mandalika Circuit homologation -- optimism versus reality

Mandalika Circuit homologation -- optimism versus reality

An aerial photograph of the Mandalika International Street Circuit in the Mandalika Special Economy Area (KEK), Pujut, Praya, Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, taken on April 6, 2021. (ANTARA PHOTO/Akbar Nugroho Gumay/wsj/uyu)

It will be the new prima donna of race tracks.
Jakarta (ANTARA) - The July-end deadline for Mandalika Circuit’s developer for preparing the track before the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) conducts its final homologation process is fast approaching.

The Mandalika International Street Circuit, constructed along the Mandalika Special Area Road, stretches 4.3 kilometers and has 17 turns. Once approved, it will be the only street circuit that has been made part of the MotoGP agenda.

The circuit has to pass FIM’s final inspection to host one of the world's most prestigious motor racing competitions. Homologation for a permanent circuit has to be completed three months prior to race day.

Indonesia had to cancel plans to hold the MotoGP event this October as the newly-built circuit had to get Grade A status for hosting the event and Grade B to host the World Superbike event from November 12–November 14, 2021.

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir decided to postpone hosting the MotoGP event to 2022 after FIM’s safety officer Franco Ucini and managing director of Dorna Sports, Carlos Ezpeleta, inspected the track in April, 2021.

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The Indonesian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), as the developer and manager of the Mandalika National Tourism Strategic Area (KSPN), has continued to express confidence that the construction of the circuit will be on schedule.

“We are satisfied with the road construction progress. We will ensure this project will keep running in accordance with the assigned timeline, including the homologation target in the second semester of 2021,” managing director ITDC for Mandalika KSPN, Bram Subiandoro, said in a written statement last month.

“We hope the whole construction will run smoothly to hold the World Superbike event next November in Mandalika,” he added.

The circuit operator and promotor’s Mandalika Grand Prix Association (MGPA) has also been providing regular updates on the project through social media to reach more audiences.

The response to the circuit's progress, however, has varied from optimism to concern.

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In a social media post, MGPA said the cumulative progress of the project has reached 81.42 percent as of mid-July this year. Several works are almost 100 percent complete – run-off gravel (99 percent), run-off grass (95 percent), north tunnel and retaining wall (98 percent), outer and inner service road (95 percent), as well as installation of concrete banner (99 percent), it elaborated.

“This circuit will be a fast, beautiful flowing trail. It will be the new prima donna of race tracks,” Arief Kurniawan, an automotive observer who was also former editor-in-chief of BOLA, a national sport tabloid, told ANTARA.

He said he is very excited about Indonesia hosting the international racing event, but also concerned about the homologation target.

“Considering the current progress, I have to admit there is still a long way to go. The circuit is lacking many aspects to meet the standards – even the paddock has not been constructed,” he noted.

“FIM always inspects the whole aspect of the circuit, comprising the asphalt, run-off, as well as other supporting facilities – pit boxes, paddock, medical center, helipad, and nearest hospital,” he added.

FIM’s medical standard is the hardest to meet since it is crucial to ensure participants’ safety, he noted.

Currently, Mandalika Hospital has been prepared as a part of the racing track. It is located about 13 km from the site.

Additionally, a 17.3-km bypass road is being constructed to provide direct access from Lombok International Airport to Mandalika Circuit.

Concurring with Kurniawan, Ezpeleta said “All aspects of the circuit have to be finished for homologation – marshals, medical staff, medical center, as well as the track itself”. He made the statement during pre-homologation in April this year.

“Indeed, there are still many things to do. However, we (Dorna Sports) cannot wait to hold MotoGP here. We believe the participants will also love this track, he  remarked.

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Potential favorite

Indonesia has been one of MotoGP’s biggest markets, with a vast number of fans. Several national brands have also provided millions of dollars to numerous teams competing in various classes at the world championship.

The biggest archipelagic nation in South East Asia does not have a strong legacy in motorsport. However, it is not too late to start, considering Malaysia and Thailand’s success in finding a regular place on the MotoGP agenda.

“Indonesia should not conduct the event only for one or two years. It has to hold the event continuously,” Kurniawan suggested. He was referring to similar events held at Sentul Circuit, Bogor, West Java in 1996-1997.

“Once Mandalika Circuit is done, Masyaallah (whatever God has willed), it will surpass the beauty of Chang and Sepang Circuit since it has splendid views,” he added.

He said he believes Mandalika Circuit will be the new favorite in motorsport once all facilities have been completed and FIM’s requirements are met.

“The venue has a unique selling point – it is located in a special economy area with a gorgeous beach. However, the access is still in progress. It will be easy to reach in the next four or five years,” he noted.

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In addition, MotoGP events have a huge power of branding, he said. They will help promote Indonesia among global audiences as well as help boost international companies and manufacturers’ trust to cooperate with the nation, he added.

“Success in organizing the racing event will give a positive image to Indonesia as a secure, developed, and hospitable country. Hopefully, people will not hesitate to visit Indonesia,” he remarked.

However, there is still a long way to go before one can give in to euphoria, he pointed out.

“Once again, we (Indonesia) have to be realistic. The truth falls short of expectations,” he remarked.

“However, I keep my trust in MGPA and ITDC teams. They are passionate and confident about this project. It is also supported by President Joko Widodo,” he added.

“Insyaallah (if God wishes), MotoGP Mandalika has to be conducted, whenever it will be. If it is possible in 2022, Alhamdulillah (praises be to God),” he remarked.

However, if the plan is not realized by 2022, Mandalika’s developer and promoter must not give up, he urged.

He said he believes the racing event in Mandalika will be advantageous to Indonesia.

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