Indonesia returns to the limelight in idyllic Lombok
THIS coming week will be highly anticipated for Indonesian motorcycle enthusiasts, as their country is back as host of MotoGP after 25 years.
The last Indonesian Grand Prix was held in 1997 at the Sentul International Circuit in Bogor, West Java.
Valentino Rossi won in the 125cc class that year. But the Asian economic crisis affected the country so badly that it never returned to the racing calendar when Malaysia stepped in with the new Sepang International Circuit in 1999.
But since then, Indonesia successfully hosted the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and intends to make a serious bid for the 2036 Olympics and will be the proud host of the second round of the MotoGP World Championship in the beautiful island of Lombok next weekend.
Meanwhile, it also helps a lot that Indonesian President Joko Widodo is an avid biker himself.
Popularly known as Jokowi, he will kick off the festivities on Wednesday by welcoming a team of 20 MotoGP riders to the Palace.
He will then ride with them in a parade.
Jokowi himself visited the Mandalika International Street Circuit, which is a beachfront location near Kuta Beach, to ensure preparations are on track for the event.
The Indonesian government sees Lombok as one of the main pillars for tourism and real estate investment, hence the decision to make the island a MotoGP stopover.
On top of that, Indonesia has the largest motor racing fan base in the world with its population of 270 million citizens.
Indonesia is also the largest market for motorcycles in Southeast Asia, a point that manufacturers do not escape.
Honda and Yamaha have regularly sent their MotoGP stars to Indonesia for marketing and PR events over the past few years.
Yamaha frequently flies Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to Indonesia.
“Indonesia is amazing. The popularity for me is just amazing in Indonesia given that we don’t even race there,” Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis said many years ago.
Indonesia is the third country in Southeast Asia, after Thailand and Malaysia, to host a MotoGP race. As expected, tickets for the Indonesian round have already been sold out for a long time.
The Thai round is set to take place in Buriram in early October while Malaysia awaits its turn three weeks later after a two-year absence due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
It is also a challenge for our organizers to ensure that Sepang does not lose its appeal as a fan and team favorite stage. The Malaysian round has always drawn a full capacity crowd in recent years, but it remains to be seen whether the locals will continue to give their unwavering support in the absence of a local representative this time around.
Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah has been the standard bearer in recent years in the premier class and later in the Moto2 class, but has moved on to a different challenge in the Superbike World Championships this year.
Nothing beats hearing the sound of cheering fans as a local rider passes the stands and that’s not lost on all MotoGP organisers.