MotoGP

Riders discuss MotoGP’s “strange, characterful” first street circuit at Mandalika

The final pre-season test ahead of the 2022 campaign got underway on Friday as MotoGP returned to Indonesia for the first time since 1997.

The Mandalika International Street Circuit is the first ‘street’ circuit to be used in the modern MotoGP era – though it is purpose-built venue that will eventually be used by local road traffic.

The 2.68-mile venue made its international race debut last November for the World Superbike finale, but had not been used again until Friday when MotoGP took to the circuit for the first of three days of testing.

As a result of this, plus construction work around the venue since then, the track was immensely dirty after rainfall on Friday morning.

The session was red-flagged for well over an hour while the track was cleaned, before riders were sent out to sweep the track on their bikes following a meeting with Dorna Sports and FIM safety officer Franco Uncini – which eventually resulted in a usable racing line.

This was met with criticism from some, with Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli labelling it “fucking dangerous” for MotoGP riders to clean tracks while Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro said the situation was “unrideable”.

Despite the difficult track conditions, the layout was met with praise from riders, with Honda’s Pol Espargaro noting that “it has its own character”.

“The track is nice. It has a little bit of everything,” said Espargaro, who was fastest on Friday.

“The only problem was we faced a situation in the morning where the track was very, very, very dirty and then we need to make laps to at least clean the line.

“By the ned the line was more or less clean, and with some rubber we could at least start to work on the bike.

“But apart from that I think the track was nice. It has very fast corners, very slow corners onto the back straight.

“It is very different and nice to what we’re used to, and this track – which is more important – I think it has its own character. It’s different from other tracks.

“Sometimes you go to a track where you feel like you’ve been riding for a week, but this track requires some technique.”

Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

KTM’s Brad Binder says a rider spends a lot of time leant over at the 2.68-mile, 17-turn track, and says “there’s not much that compares” to the Mandalika layout.

“Well, the main straight is not super long here, and also the back straight is kind of cut in half because you carry so much speed through these changes of direction,” the South African explained.

“So as soon as you pick the bike up straight you are already on the brakes.

“So, there isn’t a lot of straights here for sure. But in general, you spend a lot of time on the edge here – not on the full edge of the tyre, but using a lot of lean angle.

“It’s a little bit tricky and it’s a bit of a strange track, there’s not much that compares to it with so many high-speed corners and always changing direction with the throttle.

“But I enjoyed the track.”

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: MotoGP

Six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez admits the speed of the second sector forces a rider to “breathe before arriving there”.

While the dirt did clear on the surface as the day wore on, a number of riders were critical of the amount of stones being flicked up.

Some, such as RNF Racing’s Andrea Dovizioso, says those stones are coming straight from the asphalt – as if the circuit is breaking up.

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But Suzuki’s Alex Rins thinks it’s more a legacy of the construction work going on around the track, though admits the stones are “quite dangerous”.

“I was exiting from the box and some laps you find someone, you need to close the throttle, because it’s even worse than motocross because in motocross at least you can do another line,” Rins said.

“But here it’s difficult. I don’t think the stones are coming from the asphalt.

“I think maybe last time somebody ride here was Superbike, a really long time ago, construction and things [have gone on since].”


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