Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira mastered Mandalika’s tropical conditions to secure the new circuit’s maiden victory in Sunday’s IndonesianGP.
The first race in the archipelago for 25 years saw two frenchman complete the podium as Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo outpaced Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco in the closing stages for second and third.
The premier class action was initially reduced to three-quarters distance ahead of the IndonesianGP. FIM Safety Officer Franco Uncini confirming the decision was taken “to preserve the track conditions” due to the deteriorating, yet already resurfaced asphalt.
Torrential rain then hit the island half an hour before the scheduled start time, with the 20-lap race subsequently delayed. The safety car aquaplaning around the track as it attempted to assess conditions at 3pm local time. After further downpours, impressive lightning displays and a rain handler or ‘pawang hujan’ attempting to chase the clouds away, the grid finally lined up over an hour later than planned.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, however, was missing from the action after an intense high speed highside left the Spaniard heading for the hospital with a head concussion sitting him out of the historic contest.
Lights out at 16:15 local time saw Quartararo launch from pole, the Yamaha man previously hoping for a dry battle having struggled in wet conditions. Pramac’s Jorge Martin and Zarco completed the front row with KTM and Ducati power threatening behind.
A lightning start for Oliveira saw the Portuguese rider into second, from seventh, with Jack Miller third on the Lenovo Ducati. Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins round the outside for fourth as the Pramac pair dropped to fifth and sixth. Monster Energy’s Franky Morbidelli advanced from 12th to seventh as lap one came to a close, before taking aim at Martin. Joan Mir, Pecco Bagnaia and Pol Espargaro rounding out the initial top ten.
Martin was going backwards in the wet conditions as Mir took eighth next time around. Miller taking control overall as Quartararo ran third from the KTM. Oliveira’s teammate Brad Binder was facing opposing fortunes as the South African circulated in 12th position after lining up fourth.
Miller began to check out for the lead as the race unfolded. Oliveira keeping in touch with his Ducati rival, just three-tenths behind but Quartararo was fading fast. The Yamaha was two seconds adrift as he touched the kerb down the home straight, allowing Zarco and Rins through as he dropped further to sixth.
Relishing the tricky conditions, Miller upped the pace with a 1’41.1, Oliveira matching before taking the lead from the Australian as lap five concluded. Martin suffering but saving a moment in the wet as Bagnaia did likewise running off before rejoining in 12th.
Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini entered the top ten with a third of the race dispatched, The Italian running ninth with Binder for company and Morbidelli four seconds ahead.
Andrea Dovizioso’s race came to an early conclusion as the WithU RNF Yamaha retired with technical issues at tun ten. His rookie teammate Darryn Binder running 14th and in the points, as Martin crashed out, for the second race in a row, on a wet patch at turn one.
Quartararo began to regroup as the track brightened, fellow Frenchman Zarco narrowly ahead in fourth as his pace increased to the low 1’40’s.
Espargaro suffered a scare on the white lines as he recovered behind his brother’s Aprilia, in 12th with the younger Binder, Alex Marquez and Enea Bastianini holding the final points positions at the halfway stage.
Improving conditions found Oliveira setting a 1’39.557 lap as he stretched his lead to almost three seconds over the Ducati. Zarco advancing the pace by three-tenths as he captured third from Rins shortly after with Quartararo threatening further back.
Darryn Binder scalped Espargaro’s solo Repsol for 12th on lap 12, Aleix the next on his hit-list just two-tenths ahead. While back out front Quartararo bettered Rins for fourth as the Suzuki suffered in the latter stages.
Zarco challenged Miller for second with eight laps to go. The Australian holding out and pulling a half-second gap in answer before the Frenchman tried again.
A family affair saw the Binder brothers battling on the edge of the top ten. The young pretender making a move stick with six laps to go as he promoted the M1 to ninth but with Marini nine seconds ahead, his progression looked to be at an end.
The battle for second continued as Zarco nudged ahead before Miller struck back, Quartararo capitalising on his countryman moments later as he returned the Yamaha to podium contention. With the momentum in the reigning Champion’s favour, second place was firmly in his sights, the factory Ducati dispatched with four laps to go as Zarco followed suit next time around.
Oliveira held a three-second advantage as the final three laps began. Quartararo pushing hard as he immediately gapped the Ducatis, cutting a second a lap to the KTM as the race counted down and forcing the Portuguese rider to respond with a personal best on lap 18.
Late charges from Bastianini saw the Qatar winner claim eighth from Binder before a three-rider fight demoted the Gresini down to 11th. The number 40 losing out to his elder brother with Espargaro cutting through on the Aprilia as the Yamaha dropped back to tenth.
The flag found a relieved and exhilarated Oliveira take the inaugural Indonesian GP victory at Mandalika by 2.2 seconds from Quartararo and Zarco. Miller settled for fourth at the line ahead of the Suzuki duo of Rins and Mir with Morbidelli salvaging seventh. Aleix Espargaro split the battling Binder brothers - in chronological order - at the back of the top ten with Bastianini, Pol Espargaro, Marquez, Marini and Bagnaia collecting the final championship points.