Although we alluded to the fact that the Pangkal Pinang circuit was a quagmire in our pre-race report, we did not quite expect the first day to play out in this fashion. The MXGP and MX2 riders completed just a single practice session each on day one of the Indonesian Grand Prix and, unsurprisingly, the realisation that the Saturday programme could not go on began to set in after those.
From our viewpoint, stood above the start, the track appeared to be rideable, as the area between the start line and finish jump was salvaged somewhat. Some lines had started to form and the banked berms began to offer a bit of an escape route. The circuit resembled more of a beach race once you ventured over to the far side, however, as one face specifically led riders astray.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Why would they cancel the MXGP and MX2 motos, but continue with the WMX portion of the programme? I have no clear answer for you, honestly, as there were various different theories floating around the unique paddock. Time is fleeting though and you cannot eliminate just one of the main classes, as those two are joint at the hip, and getting rid of the women in order to free up an hour would have been a pointless exercise, as much more time was needed than that.
It would have been a disaster had you just run MXGP and MX2 too, as another WMX moto would have had to be shoehorned into the packed programme that is in store for us tomorrow. All of the races that must be run, as they pay points, are included this way. Scrapping a practice session or qualifying heat is relatively simple. Why not just restrict the WMX riders to a one-moto format? You could do that, but making them travel all this way for a single race may be pushing the envelope a little bit.
The track was actually much better by the time that the women rolled out for their first moto, although the lesser riders in the field still had a rough time navigating their way through the endless slop that was just outside of the racing line. It was completely different to what the men had experienced a couple of hours before though, so perhaps the track crew can work wonders overnight? The problem is that a lot more rain is forecast and, at this point, it seems that the facility cannot handle much more.
An incredible amount of standing water sits in the middle of the track. In fact, there is so much that more than a few team personnel sunk completely whilst wandering from one section to the other. Thunderstorms are supposed to occur frequently through the rest of the weekend, so we may have to watch some of the world’s best riders struggle to make it from one corner to the next. That is going to leave the teams with a bit of a headache too, as there are growing concerns about the toll that this will take on all machinery.
Seeing as the Grand Prix of Argentina is in just two weeks, all bikes will be shipped straight from this event. If conditions are as heavy as they were today, however, a lot of the guys are going to require full engine rebuilds at the workshops in Europe, which obviously is a tall order. Another issue is that the endless mud that will undoubtedly find its way into all of the equipment could lead to issues when it comes to clearing customs. There are so many different factors to consider and all of these have been brought up by the various people that we spoke to today.
All eyes are on tomorrow at this point though and more than a few contenders are going to have to overcome poor gate picks. Seeing as everyone presumed that they would get another session, very few riders put much effort into free practice. Now, however, they are paying the price, as a rider like Tim Gajser will have to start from the middle of the gate. The start does not favour the inside too much here, but obviously you do not want to put yourself at risk in a mud race.
Why are Julien Lieber and Darian Sanayei going to be right on the outside? The latter, who finished on the podium last week, opted to save his equipment and wait for one of the later sessions (that never actually ran). Darian Sanayei did the same, but because he has been sick recently and needed to save energy.
There are some points to consider following an uneventful day at a barren location. What does tomorrow hold? Well, who knows! A brilliant race track or an unrecognisable circuit could act as the battleground for round two of nineteen.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden