MotoGP: What To Expect In Indonesia Next Weekend

Destination: Indonesia as MotoGP™ gets ready for lights out in Lombok

The road to Pertamina Mandalika Circuit is paved with headlines, and we’re likely about to make some more

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

At the end of the Jerez Test, the world seemed to be at Ducati’s feet. And in some ways after the Grand Prix of Qatar and the start of 2022, it remains so, but it’s a more complex equation than it appeared. It was ultimately the GP21 of Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) that took a stunning victory under the floodlights in Qatar as the Italian sophomore secured his first MotoGP™ win and the first for his team since 2006 – as well as making it look impressively achievable. With Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) taking a convincing second and an equally convincing debut for Honda’s new RC213V in third in the hands of Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) too – who led more MotoGP™ laps in one race that he had on all his previous starts combined – there’s a lot to unpack on the road to Lombok. So let’s go!

First, Ducati. For Francesco Bagnaia and teammate Jack Miller it was a pretty difficult first race of the season. Still looking for that sweet spot with the GP22 before crashing out and, in Miller’s case, suffering an electrical issue, it made for a damp squib for the Ducati Lenovo Team and one they’ll be wanting to right as soon as possible. Finding the sweet spot may be aided by experience gained in the Mandalika Test though, and reliability has seldom been an issue for the Bologna bullets, so there are two reasons to expect more red in the fight for the podium at Mandalika. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) fell victim to Bagnaia’s mistake too, so the could-have-beens create a mystery there, and his teammate Johann Zarco seemed to go a little under the radar in P8. Have they got more in the locker?

Looking at Bastianini’s incredible race, they’ll need to find it soon if they’re to take on… themselves. Ducati lead the constructors’ Championship, just with the same bike that they won it with last season as the number 23 put in a near-perfect race on his GP21: out the box and on top straight away to make 1 the number of the Beast as we head for Round 2.

And now, KTM. It was a coy preseason for the Austrian factory – as much as that can apply when the top 21 on Day 3 of the Mandalika Test were covered by eight and a half tenths – but Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) broke cover with some serious form at Lusail. The number 33 was at the front from the off and remained there, homing in to within a few tenths of Bastianini by the flag, too. And that’s at a track that traditionally sees the orange machinery struggle a little more than others, so there are now likely a few whispers up and down pitlane, accompanied by a sliver of apprehension, about what exactly KTM will have in the locker going forward. Mandalika may well suit man or machine, and Binder suits the top step so much his two previous MotoGP™ podiums had been wins. Can the South African go one better in Indonesia? And can teammate Miguel Oliveira bounce back?

Another interesting talking point from Qatar most definitely originates with Honda. Pol Espargaro not only led more laps in one race than he ever had done before combined, and took the new RC213V to the podium, he also beat returning eight-time Champion Marc Marquez, becoming the first Honda to finish ahead of the number 93 when both saw the flag at Lusail. Given the more turbulent time non-Marc Marquez riders have had at times with the Honda, it speaks to the factory having accomplished a key goal for 2022: rideability – as well as serious speed. Pol Espargaro also topped the timesheets on Day 3 at Mandalika, which is an extra spring for his step on the flight to Indonesia.

Marquez will no doubt be up in the mix as his experience on the bike and physical condition both increase, however, and after such a difficult couple of seasons, a top five at Lusail is a patient warning for the rest: the number 93 very much races on. Can he take on the podium at Mandalika and hit back against his teammate?

For Aprilia, meanwhile, it was their best ever MotoGP™ race according to timesheets alone. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) may have finished fourth but it was the closest the Noale factory have ever been to the winner, so that’s a very good start for an RS-GP that looked lean and mean in pre-season. It was a more difficult opener for Maverick Viñales, however, and he’ll be looking for more at Mandalika. On Day 3 of the test the number 41 was third and the number 12 was seventh, split by less than a tenth, so Aprilia will be keen to see both bikes attack the bigger points hauls – and try and keep that fourth place in the Constructors’ rolling.

And then there’s Suzuki. There was many an eyebrow raise after Friday in Qatar saw a GSX-RR draft a Ducati, and straight line speed gains have certainly been made. Qualifying was fairly solid, and the start of the race so too. But as the laps ticked down the Team Suzuki Ecstar machines couldn’t quite get up into the podium fight, ultimately coming home in P6 – 2020 MotoGP™ Champion Joan Mir – and P7, Friday’s fastest Alex Rins. They’ll want a lot more at Mandalika and pitlane reporter Simon Crafar said in pre-season testing he expected the 17-corner layout to suit the inline four machinery, so it could be an interesting shuffle in Lombok. Mir did lose some track time at the test due to illness, so there may be more in the locker once we get down to racing business…

For Yamaha it was a tough Qatar GP. With reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) in ninth, it was the worst position for the top Yamaha in the season opener since 2006 – and it didn’t result from any one-off drama. The Iwata marque will be all hands on deck to convert Mandalika into a much better round, for both Quartararo and teammate Franco Morbidelli, who ended up in P11. Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) was 14th too, with a whole lot of experience struggling to crack into the podium fight. Quartararo was just 0.014 off the top on Day 3 at Mandalika in testing though, so the track may prove a happier hunting ground – with a potentially better layout for the YZR-M1.

And finally, rookie watch. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was the breakaway star of the first half of the race as the Italian shot clear of his fellow debutants and made a few waves before crashing out, rider ok. That left Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) vs Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) as the battle for top rookie and, in the end, the battle for a first GP point. The reigning Moto2™ Champion took it by hundredths at the line, but Binder did likewise impress as he moves from Moto3™ – although Gardner felt he’d been pretty held up by some late lunges from the South African. Can Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) move forward at Mandalika and can Raul Fernandez (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing), after an impressive start, take back to the rookie top? The Spaniard missed some track time at Mandalika after a crash in testing, so he’ll be eager to get down to work.

One race down, 20 to go – and already a thousand talking points. Get ready to enjoy some more as MotoGP™ returns to race in Indonesia for the first time since 1997 in the Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia, with the roar of the grandstands set to rival the engines. The lights go out for the MotoGP™ race at 15:00 (GMT +8) on Sunday, so make sure to tune in for another stunner!

MotoGP™ CHAMPIONSHIP: TOP 5

1 Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – Ducati – 25

2 Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – KTM – 20

3 Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) – Honda – 16

4 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia – 13

5 Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – Honda – 11
 

Mandalika: Moto2™ take on pastures new

The intermediate class prepare for touchdown at Pertamina Mandalika Circuit

There were headlines aplenty in the Qatar GP, but one was most definitely the demolition job Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) put together for his maiden Moto2™ win. The Italian was untouchable and as the intermediate class arrive at a whole new track, it begs the question: will he do it again?

His six second gap over the line, as well as the fact that he started from pole and seemed to not expect either, made it seem all the more effortless, and that could be a serious warning sign for the field. Effortless pace brings points. The field, however, is deep, and taking on a whole new track will be an interesting watch as we look for signs of the title fight we’re to enjoy in 2022.

Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40) was another standout lone ranger in Qatar, taking his first Moto2™ podium on a Kalex and likewise looking pretty sharp. He’s still sporting the bow tie he says he’ll take off once he has his maiden intermediate class win, so could Mandalika be the place? A podium on first asking on his new machine is a good sign, and the Spaniard is evidently settled in.

Behind Vietti and Canet, however, there was an almighty battle to complete the podium. Eventually it was Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) who took it, after a last gasp lunge from Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) on Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) saw both head wide but, somehow, stay on. Tony Arbolino, new in at Elf Marc VDS Racing Team, was just about in that battle too and profited to take fifth, taking a step forward so far as he and Ogura both become sophomores in the class. It would take some bravery to bet against the quartet featuring very near the front come lights out in Lombok…

Speaking of which, Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will be looking for a lot more, as will Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team). Both had more form in testing and then suffered early skirmishes in the Qatar GP, and they’ll want to avoid any dramas and get back at that sharp end from the off in Indonesia. That said, Acosta was nevertheless still the top rookie in what would have been an impressive debut had he not already been breaking lap records at Portimão and been, well, Pedro Acosta. The field can likely expect the number 51 to reset, reload and gun for a lot more glory this time around – and at a track where no one has experience on a Moto2™ machine. Will that catapult some more debutants into the limelight?

We’ll find out soon enough as the lights go out for Moto2™ on Sunday at 13:20 (GMT+8). Can Vietti keep the early Championship lead?

Moto2™ CHAMPIONSHIP: TOP 5

1 Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – Kalex – 25

2 Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40) – Kalex – 20

3 Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) – Kalex – 16

4 Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – Kalex – 13

5 Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) – Kalex – 11
 

Migno leads Moto3™ to Indonesia 

It’s a new track but the same interesting mix of veterans and rookies gearing up… so who will leave Lombok on top?

Five years after his first Moto3™ win, Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) was back on top at Lusail, taking the first Championship lead of the season. The Italian was in good company on the podium too as fellow veterans Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) and Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) locked out the rostrum, and we learned plenty from the first race of 2022.

First, Migno remains fast and a serious threat – as does Garcia, who took his second consecutive second place and that despite a Long Lap penalty this time around. The Spaniard also, as he always does, went for it when required… and only missed out by thousandths. Toba had another good start but often goes well in Qatar, having also taken his win there, and will want to back it up with more at Mandalika. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) came fourth and was back up at the sharp end he’s not featured in quite as much in the latter stages of 2021, and John McPhee (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) also made experience count. The Scotsman will, however, miss Indonesia due to injury – so that’s one less frontrunner to expect.

Speaking of frontrunners in the literal sense at Lusail, Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) was absolutely gone at the front before that near-highside and incredible save saw him damage his machine and forced to retire. He’ll be trying to focus on the pace not the points that evaporated, and the Japanese rider had some very impressive pace. So too did Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) and Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team), with both given a back of the grid penalty but still moving through to some good points hauls – Foggia in P7 and Guevara in P8, the former having also taken two Long Laps and the latter one. On take 2 in 2022, they’ll want to make sure their Saturday work – in Guevara’s case, pole – counts for a little more in Lombok. Both looked like serious threats in pre-season, and race day in Qatar definitely didn’t put a dent in that.

Just ahead of Foggia was another performance of note: Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI). The Brazilian took an impressive sixth place and was top rookie by a good number of positions in Qatar, as well as 4.5 seconds of the second debutant. What can he do at Mandalika? With the venue truly brand new for the lightweight class after no pre-season test in Lombok, it could be a leveller and the rookies could be ones to watch – with no one else enjoying any experience at the track at all. Moreira will be hoping so, as will the likes of second rookie in Qatar, Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team), and Joel Kelso (CIP Green Power), who already scored points. Dani Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo), meanwhile, arrives as reigning JuniorGP™ Champion but suffered injury struggles in pre-season, so he’ll be keen to move forward and avoid the late race “drop 1 position” penalty that saw him forfeit the final point to Kelso in Qatar.

There’s another rookie who, as he settles in, will likely be the star of the show, however: Mario Aji (Honda Team Asia). The Indonesian will be flying the flag on home turf and looking to move forward, but is pretty much guaranteed superstar status at Mandalika. What can he do as Indonesia celebrates a home GP for the first time in 25 years?

It was a tale of two races at Lusail in some ways, and now we’re ready for another chapter of Moto3™ history at Mandalika as the lightweight class of Grand Prix racing celebrates its 900th race. Tune in for more as the lightweight class go racing from 12:00 (GMT +8) on Sunday!

Moto3™ CHAMPIONSHIP: TOP 5

1 Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) – Honda – 25

2 Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) – GASGAS – 20

3 Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) – KTM – 16

4 Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) – KTM – 13

5 John McPhee (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) – Husqvarna – 11

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MotoGP: What To Expect In Indonesia Next Weekend

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