“What a unique project this will be, having an urban, world class circuit in a country where MotoGP has such a huge following. Indonesia is a key market for us with a considerable percentage of motorsport fans living here and the MotoGP atmosphere will be even stronger once the circuit is complete.”
Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna MotoGP CEO
Lombok is a tourist’s haven located in the West Nusa Island province of Indonesia. It is a focal point of many investors, not in any small part due to its unique flora and fauna. With destinations like Lombok enjoying an influx of investments and economic growth, so too is Indonesia as a whole. Investments coming from local government sources and foreign investments are changing the landscape of the once sleepy islands to what the government now refers to as the “10 New Bali’s”.
Lombok: A Hidden Gem
Lombok is emerging as one of the top investment destinations in Asia. Blessed with beautiful beaches, and clear blue waters perfect for surfing and diving, it is located near the famous islands of Bali and Komodo.
With regular sunny days and temperatures not exceeding 33C and not dropping below 21C, tourists are flocking to Lombok as an alternative to Bali for its less crowded beaches, to dive in clear aquamarine oceans or surf its world-famous waves in this glorious untouched tropical paradise.
A Major Economic Hub
A US$3billion resort called the Mandalika Project is currently being developed in south Lombok in an area totalling approximately 1175 hectares and around 16km of pristine coastline. With the support of the government-backed Indonesian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), the project is one of the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia and is aimed at making Lombok a world-class tourism destination.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo inaugurated the Mandalika Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in October 2017 with the specific aim of promoting tourism. Mandalika is 40 kilometres away from the provincial capital, Mataram, and is located near Kuta beach on its western side. The Special Economic Zone is expected to be different from the mainstream tourist destinations like Nusa Dua in Bali, which is famous for business meetings and exhibitions.
The project aims at developing various facilities, roads and infrastructure including over 10,000 luxury hotel rooms and an international motor racing street circuit.
Host to A Mega Motorcycle Racing Event
Indonesia is set to host a world-class motorbike racing championship event once again – the MotoGP. It has been more than two decades since an event of this kind was held in Indonesia, however, the dream of the MotoGP is alive again after a deal was agreed with Dorna Sport’s MotoGP at the end of 2018. A track is now being developed on the island of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara with construction beginning in October 2019 – a project managed by French construction company Vinci.
MotoGP: A Premier Motorsport Competition
MotoGP is a premier road racing championship tournament. It has its roots in Europe where it came into being after FIM (Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme) imposed regulations for motorcycle racing for the first time in 1949.
The commercial rights now belong to Dorna Sports, with FIM acting as the governing body. There are four entities which make the Grand Prix commission comprising of International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA) – who represent the teams; Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association (MSMA) – who represent the manufacturers; FIM and Dorna.
Racing events are categorized based on engine sizes and there are currently four racing classes in the championship which are Moto Grand Prix, Moto2 and Moto3 – utilizing four-stroke engines – and MotoE, which was introduced in 2019 and uses electric motors.
In the past, the classes facilitated motorcycles ranging from 50cc to 500cc. However, new regulations now permit the use of engines up to 1000cc.
The Grand Prix Championship is held annually with races being hosted in different, often exotic locations. Indonesia last hosted this mega event over two decades ago in 1996 and 1997.
1996-1997 Malboro Indonesian Grand Prix
The 1996 and 1997 Indonesian Motorcycle Grand Prix events were held at Sentul International Circuit located in Sentul City, Babakan Madang, Bogor, Indonesia. There were three racing classes of different engine capacities comprising of 125cc, 250cc and 500cc.
The circuit’s pit facilities are easily accessible from Jagorawi Toll Road. The current circuit is the shortened version of the original design, by approximately 40%. The circuit runs counter-clockwise and is mainly used for motorcycle racing.
Sentul, which is capable of hosting up to 50,000 spectators, has a smooth track which allows for a high-speed adrenaline-filled race. It has a 900-meter straight path allowing speeds to reach up to 300 kilometres per hour.
1996 Indonesian Grand Prix winners:
500cc Winner: Micheal Doohan
250cc Winner: Tetsuya Harada
125cc Winner: Masaki Tokudome
In 1997, MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi was among the winners. Honda dominated too, with winners in both the 250cc and 500cc categories:
500cc Winner: Tadayuki Okada
250cc Winner: Max Biggi
125cc Winner: Valentino Rossi
Sentul International Circuit also hosts other events like Motorcross, Autocross and Go-Karting. It also houses 2000 hotel rooms, restaurants, a recreational centre, and an international golf course.
Unfortunately, this event did not happen again in the years since, and the true financial potential of Sentul International Circuit was never fully recognized.
Why MotoGP Championship Left Indonesia for Two Decades
According to Lola Moenek, General Manager of Sentul International, MotoGP championship left Indonesia due to the worsening of Rupiah exchange rate against the US dollar during the 1996-1997 period. The Rupiah continued to depreciate with the rate rocketing from IDR2,383 to US$1 in 1996 to IDR11, 591 to US$1 in 1998.
This financial hurdle overwhelmed Sentul’s managers, who decided they could not continue to host the race. However, the CEO of Dorna, Carmelo Ezpeleta, and the director of Sentul, Tinton Soeprapto had previously signed a contract making Indonesia a venue for the MotoGP championship for five years.
“At that time, the dollar exchange rate was getting higher. When we held MotoGP in 1996-1997, the exchange rate was around IDR. 2,700. The MotoGP contract at that time between Carmelo Ezpeleta and Tinton Soeprapto for five years was abandoned. Why? Because the dollar strengthened. We were not brave at the time.” Lola was reported saying at 2015 Indonesian Touring Car Awards in Jakarta.
Return of MotoGP After Two Decades
The government have high hopes for the much-delayed return of MotoGP to Indonesia after 24 years. It is considered a massive boost for the country’s international profile and highlights how the economy has strengthened.
The Indonesian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) signed an agreement with Dorna Sports, MotoGP organizers, for a slot in the 2021 MotoGP season. The deal outlines the hosting of the race and development of the circuit. The competition will be hosted within a designated special economic zone for tourism, Mandalika.
Besides the MotoGP, Mandalika is also speculated to host a round of the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) and a Motocross World Championship event.
Indonesia was recently hosting to major sporting events in the past two years – the Asian Games and Asian Para Games. It has also placed a formal bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. Cabinet Secretary Pramono Agung said: “What the government is doing with MotoGP and the Olympics is a vision toward becoming a great nation, a winning nation,” adding that the MotoGP would give exposure to the Mandalika resort in south Lombok.
Construction of the Mandalika Circuit
ITDC has awarded the contract to develop and construct Mandalika’s street circuit complex to a French construction company called Vinci Construction Grand Projects. Vinci is also the leading investor of the project with an investment of US $900 million or equivalent of IDR15.3 trillion. In addition, Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is also among the investors of the project with an investment of US $248 million.
A US$1 billion deal was signed with Vinci on August 8 of 2018. The deal ensures the next 15 years of development.
Vinci is expected to build several supporting facilities ranging from hotels and shopping malls to a hospital and apartments to ensure Lombok is capable of handling a large influx of tourists. The street circuit venue will house 150,000 spectators for the MotoGP championship. The supporting facilities will be built on 131 hectares of land within the designated 1175-ha Mandalika resort.
According to ITDC construction and operation director Ngurah Wirawan, the construction of Mandalika’s racing circuit will begin in October of 2019. The first phase will see the development of the foundations, underground infrastructure, and the surrounding roads. After that, Vinci will focus on the installation of racing track and technology utilized in MotoGP races.
ITDC aims at finishing the first phase by mid-2020 and Vinci is expected to fully install the technology and racing track by the end of 2020.
Many of the ministries within Indonesia stand behind the MotoGP revival plan. Youth and Sports ministry secretary Gatot S. Dewa Broto showed his support in favour of the project, however, he hinted that his ministry was not associated with dealings regarding hosting and development of circuit with Dorna Sports. Indonesian Motor Association (IMI) also stands behind the decision to set the Mandalika circuit as the venue for the MotoGP championship.
The Mandalika street circuit is one-of-a-kind. It will be open for public use when there are no racing events taking place. Moreover, the MotoGP Lombok 2021 race set to be held in this venue will be the first street race in MotoGP history.
Features Of The Circuit:
The track will be 4.32 kilometres long, with 18 turns and one main straight path. The circuit will include a paddock area with 40 garages, and provide the facility for 100,000+ spectators. VIP suites to be available for more than 7,500 people. According to ITDC president Abdulbar M.Monsoer, the Mandalika circuit is going to be unique in providing a breathtaking view of the Indian ocean, lagoons, solar-powered villages, golf course, and areas comprising of urban and commercial buildings. All this is expected to be completed by 2021.
Benefits of Hosting MotoGP Lombok 2021 Championship
Many government officials believe this mega event will bring much-awaited exposure to Lombok. According to Indonesia Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya, who is also a staunch supporter of hosting MotoGP in Indonesia, the event would attract at least 100,000 foreign tourists which as a result is expected to generate direct profits of IDR1 trillion.
The indirect benefits are expected to generate over IDR2 trillion with the five day MotoGP event being broadcast to two hundred countries over 60 television channels.
The MotoGP championship is a very popular sporting event among locals. It is hoped the event will inspire local racers, and many Indonesian racers are also expected to debut in the race.