The Making of Mandalika

As the sun sets on the second visit of the FIM World Superbike Championship to the beautiful Pertimina Mandalika International Street Circuit, the original design and implementation team for the project look back at the journey that created Indonesia’s premier motorsport destination located on the idyllic island of Lombok. In 2017, Mrk1, one of the leading track development companies in the world, were asked to support colleagues in a discussion with the Director of the Indonesian Tourism Development Corporation. Mark Hughes, MD – Mrk1 picks up the story. “The conversation started in a very similar fashion to those we have with a lot of clients. The client has land and would like to consider the addition of a motorsport destination as part of a wider development. This in itself isn’t unusual. The unusual part came when the ITDC said they’d like a street circuit and one that could host MotoGP. This had never been done before as the challenges around safety for MotoGP are incredible demanding with huge run off areas, something traditional street circuits just done have. However, we were essentially given a 200 Ha blank sheet of paper with very few constraints”. Whilst this made the challenge a little easier, there was also the issue of discussing the possibility of a race with DORNA, the commercial owners of MotoGP. The first few meetings we had with them were amazing. Indonesia was a destination that they wanted to revisit having not raced there for 25 years. There had been many false starts over the years but together with the ITDC, we convinced them this was a genuine project. In the intervening years between that first initial enquiry and the beginning of construction, an awful lot changed. We brought Driven International to the project and together spent an enormous amount of time working with FIM’s Franco Uncini and Loris Capirossi as well as Carlos Ezpeleta from DORNA to fine tune the design. We also had input from riders including multiple world champion Mick Doohan in the early stages which was invaluable. Site visits took place with key stakeholders including Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO Dorna Sports. Ben Willshire, Managing Director at Driven International recalls the process of designing the circuit. “In particular, I recall working with Mrk1 and other stakeholders including meetings with Dorna & FIM to refine the layout. I found it really satisfying hand drawing the last sequence of the track to create a long tightening radius corner, before transferring this into our CAD and simulation software. The corner requires a long trail brake before a tight hairpin, and we are very proud to have seen riders using different lines to overtake and battle wheel to wheel in the closing laps of the 2021 and 2022 FIM World superbike races, as well as the positive comments from various riders about the challenges that the high speed T8-T9 sequence provides. We couldn’t have hoped for higher praise of the circuit layout and flow from the riders” The final iteration/design of the 4.2km track design was approved by the FIM for a Grade A homologation in 2019. The small matter of a pandemic could have derailed the project, but the client pushed on working on a site with limited access and resources to create a track that was launched with the 2021 World Superbike race. Nothing short of a remarkable effort from the Indonesians. Jumping ahead to November and with the world opening up again after a global pandemic, the riders finally landed in Lombok to a warm Indonesian welcome and were delighted with the track as soon as they had the chance to walk it. However, come Friday and free practice the weather turned and biblical rainfall hit the circuit. Despite this, the riders pressed on and the feedback for grip and drainage were exceptional with some riders quotes. Hughes continues “The feedback post the 2021 WSKB race was extraordinary. The race weekend saw torrential wet weather but nonetheless the drainage and asphalt did what it was designed to do and we saw wheel to wheel racing that decided the championship.” 6 time World Superbike Champion, Jonathan Rae “Honestly, it’s one of the grippiest circuits in the wet. The grip is maybe one of the best in the world….. they’ve done an incredible job.” MotoGP and the new World Superbike Champion Alvaro Bautista “I’m really happy with the layout of the track because it’s really enjoyable…..” In early 2022 the track played host to the first MotoGP race in Indonesia in 25 years. Despite some technical challenges and, once again biblical wet weather, the track gained further praise from the world’s best riders. MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro “The track is nice. It has a little bit of everything….. it has it’s own character”. MotoGP rider Brad Binder “There isn’t much that compares to Mandalika….so many high speed corners and direction changes…. I enjoyed it” 6 time MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez “You really have to breath before the second sector…. Extraordinary”. The best quote possibly came from World Champion, Fabio Quatararo who said to Hughes, “This is a big balls track, well done!”. In 2022, the Mandalika Grand Prix Association, the track operator decided to explore an FIA Grade 2 license for the circuit as well as leave the circuit in place longer term, negating the temporary nature of the track and its “street circuit” credentials. In addition, responding to DORNA and FIM feedback on the track surface the decision was made to resurface the entire track prior to the 2022 Superbike Race. Following a tender process, MGPA appointed DROMO to assist the original construction company PP Pereso with the re-surfacing of the track in preparation for the race. We are delighted to see that the new surface and the perfect weather combined to create another nail biting round of the World Superbike Championship and for the second year in succession, the championship was decided on the island of Lombok, Indonesia. The original visionaries of this track are incredibly proud to have turned an extraordinary idea into reality and to see the Mandalika Circuit continue to be utilised for international events and wish the MGPA team and Indonesia all the best in protecting what is one of the most beautiful, challenging, flowing and iconic circuits in the world for many years to come.

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