This weekend's inaugural Mandalika MotoGP, the first grand prix in Indonesia since 1997, is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable and challenging events in recent memory.

An official test held at the circuit in February raised as many questions as it answered and MotoGP returns to face a partial resurfacing - required after the asphalt began breaking up at the test - and special tyre casing from Michelin that hasn't been raced since Buriram 2018.

 

 

"We used it in a grand prix a very very long time ago," Ducati's Jack Miller said of the casing. "I'm not saying the tyres are old, they are new tyres, but it's older technology. It seems to be that they're worried about blisters this weekend, so we brought a safe tyre.

"It's the same for everybody, so we'll have to do the best on them."

The revised tyre casing compared to those used at the test has been called up to combat the "insane heat", tipped to exceed venues such as Sepang in Malaysia and Buriram in Thailand.

"What we will find in this race weekend is crazy," said Andrea Dovizioso, the oldest and most experienced rider on the grid.

"The temperature you cannot imagine. Today it's almost impossible to ride. It's too hot, more than Malaysia.

"Then the grip will be different during the lap," added the RNF Yamaha rider, referring to the new and old asphalt sections.

"How clean will the track be? I think if they had the right machines like in Qatar, it will be clean. And then apart from all that there is an old tyre casing.

"I mean, really a lot of things which will affect everybody, in every way. So we will see."

2020 MotoGP champion Joan Mir echoes those words, describing it as a case of survival, but is looking forward to the challenge.

"This event will be complicated for many reasons," said the Suzuki rider. "The first is the tyre that nobody knows. The second is the new surface on one sector. And the other thing is the heat, which is extreme. So we have to survive, let's say, in this GP!

"We have to understand how to be competitive, fast and try to not make a big tyre consumption. So it will be hard. A good challenge. I love the challenge.

"It will be interesting to see if there are [loose] stones or not, because at the test it was pretty difficult to ride, also behind another rider. Also, overtaking was almost impossible during the test because of the dirt. So I expect better for sure."

Monster Yamaha's Franco Morbidelli said he's in the best shape possible, but warned, "nobody is fit enough or ready enough for this heat. It's going to be interesting to see if and how it is going to affect somebody."

It's not just the riders that will be tested by the extreme conditions, but also the bikes.

"It's on the limit," Aleix Espargaro said of the heat. "More than 44-45 degrees, 65 on the ground.

"I never felt heat like today in Mandalika. It’s just insane, crazy. It’s going to be very demanding for the bikes and the riders.

"The bikes are very, very hot. We have leather suits, in my case black one. Very good for these conditions! If you put everything in a bag it’s a nice cocktail.

"I cannot train more. I did my best. We’ll see if it’s enough or not. But regarding the bikes it’s going to be tricky.

"I said to my engineers we have to try our best to make the bikes cool. At the end they’re machines with a small engine and 300hp. It’s not easy for the engines to breathe."

While the physical and technical challenges will be immense, the fundamental question in terms of the event itself is whether the untested new asphalt (and indeed the original sections) will be strong enough to sustain a whole weekend of track action. The test featured only the MotoGP class, with Moto2, Moto3 and the Asia Talent Cup also present this weekend.

"The ultimate factor for me is if [the asphalt] will rip up; that’s the number one problem," said rookie Remy Gardner.