Indonesia had already gone 25 years without MotoGP when thunderstorms delayed the race by another 75 minutes, but what followed was well worth the extra wait.
The pre-race downpour threw the weekend’s preparations completely out the window to deliver an unpredictable result, and by the time the checked flag flew on a shortened 20-lap race it was Miguel Oliveira who’d made the best of the difficult conditions to take a fourth career victory.
Jack Miller had led early but found his tires fading later; instead it was poleman Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco who completed the first Mandalika podium after a race that won’t soon be forgotten.
Watch Every Practice, Qualifying & Race of The 2022 MotoGP World Championship Live & Ad-Break Free During Racing on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14 Days Free Now>
OLIVEIRA SCORES A TIMELY WIN
Miguel Oliveira’s second season with the factory KTM team was bizarre. A slow start gave way to a powerful spell of performances in the middle of the year, including victory in Barcelona and a couple of podiums, but a stinker of a second half to the campaign saw him score just nine points til the end of the year .
He’d chosen a poor time to have his form desert him, with KTM boasting an embarrassment of talent. On the books are Brad Binder, signed until 2024; Remy Gardner and Raúl Fernandez, the Moto2 champion and runner-up, at satellite team Tech 3; and junior Pedro Acosta, the 2021 Moto3 champion.
Now in his fourth season in MotoGP, the Portuguese rider was potentially in the hot seat.
But what a way to answer his critics.
Rain is a great leveller in motorsport, smoothing over the differences between bikes and creating more space for the rider to make a difference. Oliveira seized his chance decisively, jumping from seventh on the grid into the lead battle, and once he’d relieved Miller of first place, he managed the gap to rest of the field with ease.
After watching teammate Binder finish second in Qatar last round from the sidelines after crashing from outside the points, a peerless performance in Indonesia will be an important release of pressure for Oliveira. And given the KTM is clearly a frontrunner this season, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
JACK MILLER STRIKES BACK AFTER QATAR DISAPPOINTMENT
Jack Miller left Qatar dejected for having qualified a strong fourth but was unable to show anything for it thanks to an electronics problem. He was confident of smoother running in Mandalika, but ninth on the grid, three spots behind teammate Francesco Bagnaia, after a scrappy qualifying session was a little deflating.
He must have been licking his lips when he saw rain arrive on the radar.
Miller’s reputation in mixed conditions needs no introduction. His ability to find grip on an evolving track sets him apart from the rest, and it was on full display at the Indonesian Grand Prix, particularly in the opening phase of the race, when he rocketed from ninth into the lead.
The longer the race went on, the more conditions stabilized thanks to the combination of a full field of bikes and warm tropical conditions drying the track rapidly. It brought Johann Zarco – who admitted after the race there was no way to keep up with Miller in the variable weather at the start – and Fabio Quartararo back into play, and having played a strong defensive game in the middle of the race, he faded to fourth as his tires wore and the track dried.
But it was a strong ride nonetheless, and it was wise, having failed to score in the first round, to bring the bike home for decent points rather than risk a vain chase. He’s now closed his gap to the championship lead to 17 points.
And on a day Bagnaia struggled to match the frontrunning pace and factory candidate Jorge Martin crashed early, it was a timely reminder of his worth on that factory Ducati bike.
FABIO QUARTARARO ROARS ONTO THE PODIUM
If you’d just tuned in to the 2022 season in Indonesia, you’ll be forgiven for assuming Yamaha and Fabio Quartararo had picked up where they’d left off at the end of last season.
The Frenchman’s laser-like pursuit of pole and his not-quite-complete wet-weather form could easily have been from the happier times of his championship year, but instead they were reflective of a combination of circumstances that opened the door to him claiming an important haul of points for his title defense.
First, Mandalika was always likely to be a Yamaha track, its lack of a long straight and dominance by corners making fertile ground for the inline M1.
The fresh resurfacing and treatment of the circuit also helped by ramping up the grip, enhancing Yamaha’s cornering performance.
Finally, Michelin’s decision to be an old tire construction to counter the soaring track temperatures – some days the surface registered at close to 70 degrees – pushed some teams backwards, widening the gap to the now rapid Yamaha bike.
Of course some this became academic when the wet race rolled around. Quartararo sunk back at first in difficult conditions, but as the track stabilized he was able to deploy the M1’s nimbleness to return to second.
It was a meaningful result after a preseason and first race of deep frustration, and his victory-like celebrations with his team afterwards illustrated how important it was to bring home healthy points from this race. The only way Quartararo will be in with a shout at a title defense this year is to be faultless at the circuits that pull the Yamaha into contention, and Indonesia was a tick in that column.
DARRYN BINDER MAKES GOOD AFTER QATAR MISSTEP
There was action through the field on Sunday, and most of it seemed to be generated by rookie Darryn Binder, who finished a fabulous 10th, up from 22nd, aboard his RNF Yamaha.
He’d made up 10 places in 10 laps to insert himself into an evolving seven-rider battle for what would ultimately be eighth place, taking the lofty spot with five laps to go.
He defended ably against Enea Bastianini and Aleix Espargaró, even going three abreast into turn 12 on the penultimate lap. But it was brother Brad, of all people, who cost him the place with an aggressive slice down his inside at turn 16 with a lap to go, dropping to 10th.
Not bad for your first wet MotoGP race.
It comes off the back of a somewhat humbling week for the South African, who was chastised by fellow rookie Remy Gardner after the two sparred in Qatar.
‘GET IN AND DO IT’: F1 world champion rubbished Ricciardo’s ‘crap’ excuses
Gardner accused him of riding with an aggressive and dangerous style better suited to Moto3, from where Binder had been promoted directly for this season, skipping the intermediate Moto2 class.
Binder sought Gardner in the interim for what turned out to be an important chat.
“I went and spoke to him and understood his perspective of what I was doing wrong,” he said, per The Race. “The only way I could understand is by somebody telling me.
“I’m going to take everything that’s been said to me into consideration and try to put it into action [in Indonesia].
“I don’t want to continue this reputation; I want to ride safe and enjoy racing against other guys. ”
You’d have to say, admittedly on the basis of one race, it did him a lot of good.
Unfortunately for Gardner, it vaulted Binder ahead in the points standings 6-1, and he now leads on the rookie riders table.
MARC MÁRQUEZ’S NEW PATIENCE PHILOSOPHY FAILS FIRST TEST
If there’s one thing the Indonesian Grand Prix lacked, it was Marc Márquez, who in seasons past would have been a protagonist in these conditions.
The six-time champion withdrew from the race with concussion after a monster 180-kilometer-per-hour highside during the morning warm-up.
His bike was totalled, and although he was able to get up and walk away from the scene of the smash, he was subsequently taken to hospital, where he was deemed unfit to race.
It was his fourth fall of a difficult weekend for the Spaniard, illustrating both his ongoing discomfort on a bike no longer built specifically for him and his conflict about playing the long game as he adjusts.
Márquez talked about need patience after finishing fifth behind teammate Pol Espargaró in Qatar. He needed to feel his way around his new bike while also healing from a string of injuries and building up his fitness after off-season rehabilitation.
But a frustrating weekend in Mandalika, where not only him but the entire Honda team struggled with balance thanks to the retro Michelin tires, seemed to trip him back into all-out-attack mode.
Some of it was nostalgic, classic Marc, like his first crash in Q1. He was scrambling to his feet almost before he stopped sliding through the gravel to run back to his garage for his spare bike for a trademark last-lap dash. But in his haste to recapture old form he forgot he wasn’t riding his old bike, and before he could start his lap he was back in the gravel, his afternoon over.
Ultimately his approach proved to be his detriment, and assuming he makes a rapid and full recovery – and here’s hoping he does – he’ll need to recentre himself for the challenge of acclimatizing to his machinery before he turns the dial back up to 93 .
HONOURABLE MENTION: THE RAIN CHARMER
Special mention must go to the Mandalika pawang hujan – or rain charmer – for the excellent work wrangling the clouds and keeping TV audiences intrigued during the lengthy rain delay.
Rara Istiati Wulandari was the designated pawang hujan for this event, and when a torrential downpour threatened to cancel the first motorcycle grand prix in 25 years she took to the track to do her thing. Lo and behold, what seemed like a certain washout became a memorable race.
Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but there’s no doubting the results.