Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing heads to Indonesia for the third stop on its East Asian tour. Still a fresh addition to the Grand Prix calendar, having made its debut last year in 2022, the Indonesian Grand Prix was a wet and memorable affair. This year, the Grand Prix is expected to be less of a venture into the unknown, as the riders head to Mandalika with a year's worth of data.
Located in the island of Lombok, the Mandalika International Street Circuit is an unusual race track. Though a newly built facility it does not fall into the stop/go nature but rather free flowing through its 16 clockwise bends. A few hard braking zones do allow for conventional passes notably into the first and last corner.
Heading into the Indonesian Grand Prix, only three points separate the top two men in the championship. A paper thin margin in the sprint race era of inflated points.
Aboard the scarlet factory Ducati, and in the proverbial red corner, is the reigning and defending champion, Francesco Bagnaia. It's been a tumultuous season for the Italian, whose run of consistency has hit a road bump. Costly mistakes in Catalunya, India, and Japan have significantly loosened Bagnaia's grasp of the trophy. Indonesia will need the very best of Bagnaia to serve as a response to the Italian's championship rival.
Dorned in purple and white, and occasionally a Spanish flag, also aboard a factory Ducati albeit with a customer team is the Challenger, Jorge Martin. In 2023, it appears Jorge Martin has completed his metamorphosis from the occasionally fast, race winner and pole sitter, to a full-fledged championship contender. Dominant displays where the Spaniard was completely peerless saw him close the gap to Bagnaia in significant strides, but with Bagnaia's mistakes, those strides turned into leaps. Martin will be looking to continue his recent form, and edge closer to realising his championship aspirations.
The Indonesian Grand Prix is by no means the ultimate decider, but with margins this small, every session of a Grand Prix weekend plays an important role.