Changing the face of race circuits

Mandalika circuit in Lombok

Race tracks haven’t really evolved too much in the hundred or so years they have been around, right? We have the traditional “road courses” as race tracks are often referred to, in America, we have the US favourite, the ovals, and the street circuits created around existing towns and cities. 

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In recent years, there has been a lot of talk around projects like Yas Marina Circuit and Sochi, which were originally conceived as part street/but permanent but they dropped the concept. This has now been used for Vietnam though. However, one sport that had long since written off the idea of a temporary “street” circuit had been MotoGP.

Until now that is. The Indonesian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) has been working with RoadGrip Motorsport and Mrk1 Consulting to develop the first modern-era MotoGP street circuit in Lombok, Indonesia. We had the chance to speak with Mark Hughes, Managing Director of Mrk1 Consulting to get an insight into this fascinating project.

Mark, can you explain why an idea like this hasn’t happened before?

Well, typically, street circuits are constructed around existing infrastructure which makes it almost impossible to achieve the safety standards required by the FIM for a modern MotoGP race. The run-off areas are the sticking point as you simply can’t achieve the space needed anywhere where there are existing buildings or infrastructure.

So what exactly is different in Lombok?

The ITDC approached us (RoadGrip & Mrk1) almost three years ago to present their master plan for the development of “The Mandalika”, a new resort on the stunning island of Lombok.

Over forty years ago, the ITDC developed Nusa Dua in Bali. This has evolved into a world-class destination for tourism and also for the meeting, conference, and exhibition business. ITDC is replicating the success of Nusa Dua in five new destinations across Indonesia, the first of which is Mandalika. This 1200-hectare resort will have hotels, golf course, waterpark, conference and exhibition facilities and multiple hotels.

We already have World Superbikes agreed and, the track could technically host any four-wheeled motorsport including Formula 1

We were asked to review the masterplan and try to incorporate a street circuit for MotoGP at the earliest stages and before anything had been built. It wasn’t quite a blank sheet of paper but we were able to manipulate the master plan to create a concept for a track.

That must’ve been quite the challenge.

It did cause a slight intake of breath but then we thought “why not”. If the client is willing to be openminded and has the right attitude to the concept, we could actually do this.

It was a massive challenge and so exciting to work with a client as dynamic and creative as the ITDC. We were able to incorporate the planned exhibition and conference facility and create a pit building inside that facility, utilize the roads they were going to build anyway and keep the actual investment over and above what they already planned to an absolute minimum.

And how did the concept become a reality?

We took the concept and worked very closely with the FIM and DORNA in a collaborative way to evolve the concept into a more complete design. It wasn’t easy. Every square meter of the development has a commercial value to ITDC so for every extra meter of runoff, there was a compromise in commercial real estate terms.

After over a year of working with the client, the FIM and DORNA we finally reached a design that worked for everyone, made use of the planned infrastructure but still achieved the safety needed for MotoGP.

Was the design your only focus for the past few years?

No. In parallel to this, we also had to work with the ITDC to secure a contract with DORNA to bring MotoGP back to Indonesia. We not only achieved this but we also secured the rights to the World Superbike championship too as well as start discussions with numerous other events and championships.

After over a year of working with the client, the FIM and DORNA we finally reached a design that worked for everyone, made use of the planned infrastructure but still achieved the safety needed for MotoGP.

So your role hasn’t just been on the development of the track?

Not at all. The client, ITDC, has partnered with RoadGrip on the track operation for the foreseeable future. As a result, we are intrinsically linked in all aspects of the business.

One of our core services is specialist knowledge transfer and this is key to our success. We operate in countries with limited experience and build up local teams that ultimately end up running the venues. This has worked for us in Russia, China, Thailand, and Kuwait to name a few locations.

So where are you now with Lombok?

Now that the design has been formally approved by the FIM, we are focused on construction. This is a major priority as the race is earmarked for the end of 2021, which doesn’t give us long.

Does that mean we can expect to see any other races in Mandalika?

Sure, absolutely! As mentioned earlier, we already have World Superbikes agreed and, the track could technically host any four-wheeled motorsport including Formula 1. Our priority if MotoGP right now but watch this space!

And is Mrk1 Consulting working on anything else right now?

We are incredibly busy with projects in six different countries right now covering Asia, North America and the Middle East. So yes, I’d say we have a few other interests.

Are you able to share those plans at this moment?

Not at the moment, but we’d love to come back and chat with the Paddock magazine when we can give you more details!

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