Four-day barge trips and the government’s help – caught up with RMI General Manager, Simon Gardini, to get the latest

It was on the same evening of the Official MotoGP™ Mandalika Test that work has been underway on making sure the improvements to the Pertamina Mandalika Circuit are ready for Round 2 of the 2022 season.

Ahead of the opening round in Qatar, had a fascinating chat with Simon Gardini, General Manager for circuit operators RMI, to get an update on the work being carried out. From resurfacing, cleaning, building a new road outside the circuit and more, to the government stopping work on one of the airport’s runways in Jakarta so a full-scale effort is focused on MotoGP™’s return. The amount of energy going into the changes is nothing short of incredible.

“The buzz around the island was fantastic. Although it’s usually a non-spectator event they had VIPs come to see the bikes, all the businesses were already getting excited for the next four weeks when MotoGP would come, everybody wanted to talk to you about it,” began Simon, talking about the MotoGP™ three-day test in February.

“It’s a small community here and they’re loving it. The locals are like disciples of MotoGP, they were out everywhere, skirting around the circuit trying to get in and now the lead up to the Grand Prix is mental. Every villa, every hotel, everything is fully booked, car rental… they’re trying desperately to build villas because they know they’ll be gone in a second. It’s got all those things that are the reasons why you bring MotoGP to a venue like this. And everyone who thought it should be on the main island, certainly it’s just heightened the excitement to get out to Lombok.”

Overall, the Mandalika Test was an overwhelming success. The venue, circuit layout, island and people were nothing short of amazing, but a couple of “teething issues” appeared. After discussions with the FIM, Dorna and the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), two areas of improvement were identified: the cleanliness of the track surface and the excess of aggregate affecting parts of the circuit. And ever since a MotoGP™ wheel stopped turning in anger in Indonesia last month, work has been in progress.  

“We’ve seen this on many circuits in terms of just general first times. You don’t have to look too far back to see Formula One’s first time in Singapore, when you have so much construction going on around that you’re always at risk with the first event,” continued Simon.

“For us it was good because we had a test and it showed it up, now we’re working full time cleaning the track and the runoffs to alleviate all those months and years of construction gone on. As far as the surface goes, we were unlucky that the aggregate, when it was put in on the surface, the asphalt if you like, we were unlucky it had been infected with some poor stone.

“It never showed up until we put something like the performance of a MotoGP bike on there in the dry, and so it became apparent the first day that the dust was an issue. At first we did think it was just the dust, but the power of the bikes and type of circuit we’ve got that has challenging and fast sections, it was giving that proportion of poor aggregate a pretty hard time. And you know, it was flicking up stones and spreading more dust onto the non-racing line.”

Simon continues to explain the vast amount of effort that is going into the upgrades. So much so, Indonesia’s President put a stop to work on one of the runways at Jakarta Airport to send all the best equipment out to Mandalika. That’s how serious Indonesia are about getting this right.

“It’s teething problems, everyone has been working so hard here from the evening of the last day of testing. It’s been a continuous, massive exercise of pavement experts, paving experts, local contractors, mobilising equipment all the way from Jakarta, to the extent that Indonesia is so serious about this, it’s gone right to government level. With their support they stopped work on resurfacing one of the airport runways in Jakarta to bring all the machinery here. Police escorted it to the port, it was put on barges and shipped across here to Lombok to have the optimal, right type of machinery and right technology to do the job.

“It’s not just any old paving machine or any old bit of equipment. That’s been supplemented from a company called R3, who are probably the world’s foremost pavement specialists, especially when it comes to motorsport, so they joined the team over here to oversee that, as well as guys that are specialists in pavement laying from Topcon. Their expertise is in making sure when that surface goes down, it’s got all the right levels, the right geometry for the track, the right camber if you like, the right drainage. It’s been a massive team effort from everyone in Indonesia, from the President down to the guy that’s cleaning the track with a hose, and the right expertise brought in from around the world.

“It’s a short period of time, I’m not sure many tracks have tried to embark on this in such a short period of time. And it’s 1.6km of the track, it’s not nothing, it’s a third of the track. And then the temptation of course is to rush to get the job done, but again, with the guidance of experts especially from R3, where I’ve wanted to see it go down quickly, they’ve been running the right tests, making sure everything is done the right way, leaving things to give it the maximum chance for success and what it needs to be – a world class circuit.

“There’s a lot of passion about getting it right, a lot of national pride at stake. That sort of thing. The MGPA (Mandalika Grand Prix Association), their CEO, Mr Priandhi Satria, is out there daily, everyone who needs to support and motivate the team are out there daily. It’s not without its challenges, but we’re getting there. The aggregate had to come on a four-day barge trip to get here, so it’s kind of not like what we’re used to in other countries where all our resources are sometimes easy to get to, the logistics sometimes is as challenging as the job itself.”

The work isn’t far off from being completed a couple of weeks before the MotoGP™ circus heads to Indonesia for Round 2 on the 18-20 of March. But it’s not just the resurfacing that’s being done in Mandalika ahead of the much-anticipated Grand Prix.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on new circuits and new events, there’s nothing like getting to that first day when the first bike goes out on track. I think this will be even sweeter because you know, there’s so many people working. It’s not just the resurfacing, there’s a new road going down at the front, there’s probably 2000 people working on planting trees, finishing the drains, putting monument type things up, the landscaping is amazing as well. The asphalt was something we didn’t have on the radar but it will make the first day when we get out there just that bit sweeter I think.” will be catching up with Simon again after the Qatar GP to get a final update on work done at the Pertamina Mandalika Circuit, before everyone’s attention will turn to MotoGP™’s visit to Indonesia. –

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