MotoGP racers ride passing the Bundaran Hotel Indonesia roundabout as they take part on a parade, ahead of the Indonesian Grand Prix, Reuters
(Reuters) - Indonesia will host a sellout crowd this weekend for its first motorcycle grand prix event in a quarter of a century, as MotoGP comes to the resort island of Lombok for the second race of the season.
Indonesia has reassured organisers that the track on the 4.3 kilometre (2.67 mile) Mandalika International Street Circuit is race-ready, with repairs completed following complaints during testing last month about dirt, rocks and cracks putting riders in danger.
The archipelago nation last hosted a grand prix in 1996 and 1997, but the buzz of motorcycle engines never left, with tens of millions of motorcycles in use in Indonesia, where monthly sales averaged 421,000 units last year.
Competitors met with Indonesian leader Joko Widodo on Wednesday and took a ride around the streets outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, among them six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and 2020 winner Joan Mir, as crowds waved and cheered from the roadside.
The president donned his motorcycle leathers, including a red and white racing jacket, then waved the chequered flag outside the palace to open the parade.
"We're hoping we have a new brand: that Indonesia now has a MotoGP circuit that's just as good as other countries," said Jokowi, as the president is known.
Marquez, Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini were among those spotted making preparations on Thursday at Mandalika, the picturesque island race venue flanked by green hills and a stunning blue ocean backdrop.
But the choice of Lombok as the venue has courted controversy, with United Nations experts raising concerns about what they called aggressive land grabs and forced eviction of indigenous people as part of a major tourism project that includes the circuit. The developers have denied that.