MotoGP race will bring 60,000 fans to Indonesian circuit

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s first MotoGP race in 25 years will attract the biggest crowd for any sporting event in the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic when 60,000 fans descend on the tourist island of Lombok.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo hosted 20 racers at the presidential palace in the capital, Jakarta, on Wednesday before the launch of a parade in the buildup to Sunday’s grand prix at the beachside Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit.

“Our target of 60,000 tickets has been sold, thank God,” Widodo said a news conference.

The president said he explained to the racers that Indonesia, population 270 million, is a motorcycle-loving nation.

“I told them that there are 122 million of motorcycles in Indonesia,” Widodo said. “So, they have a huge fans in Indonesia and (MotoGP race) here will make them so happy.”

About 30,000 spectators attended the final round of the Superbike World Championship at Pertamina Mandalika last November.

Sunday’s race is the second grand prix of the season. Enea Bastianini of the Gresini Ducati team won the season opener in Qatar early this month.

Hundreds of people lined the road leading to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circles fountain in the heart of Jakarta to watch the parade, which included more than 60 Indonesian bikers.

MotoGP is one of Indonesia’s most-watched sports but it has been 25 years since the country hosted a MotoGP round in West Java’s Sentul city.

Indonesia has been seeking inclusion in the race calendar but struggled to get a world-class circuit until Widodo’s administration in 2015 picked Mandalika on the picturesque Lombok island, next to Bali, to build a new racing track from scratch rather than to rebuild the old one in Sentul.

Like Bali, Lombok is known for its pristine beaches and mountains.

The new 4.3-kilometer (2.6 miles) circuit has 17 corners, 40 garages and a 507-meter start-to-finish straight. The grandstand can accommodate up to 50,000 people and the total capacity is 200,000.

The Superbike World Championship in November was Indonesia’s first big international motorbike race in more than two decades in what authorities said was to be a launchpad for the revival of tourism in one of the country’s most popular destinations.

Only fully vaccinated spectators or those with negative COVID-19 tests were allowed into the circuit.

Indonesia held MotoGP races in 1996 and 1997 and the Superbike from 1994 to 1997, but after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, the country was forced to suspend hosting motorsports.

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