I must be honest and admit my first reaction, I thought those days were over when my alarm clock woke me with a start at 6am on Sunday morning. My immediate thought was do not forget your media pass, mobile phone and have I got time for breakfast before we leave for the circuit. Then I realised I was at home on a glorious Oxfordshire spring morning. All I had to do was let the dog out, switch on the kettle and settle down in front of the television screen to watch the Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia MotoGP™ race.
All was well at home, but it was a very different story at the Mandalika circuit. The thunder rolled around ominously loud, scary lightening momentary lit up the gloom as the rain hammered down turning the track into a series of lakes and streams. Wet races and delays – a commentator’s nightmare. Memories of some long, lonely afternoons talking about nothing as the rain hammered on the commentary box window at circuits as far afield as Motegi and Indianapolis afternoons flooded back.
Remember the days when riders like Australian Ant West would perform a rain dance in pit lane because they just loved racing on a streaming wet track. Further back, chaos often reigned when the rain fell. Races were stopped and started before flag to flag was introduced. In 1989 at Spa the 500cc race was stopped and started two times. In the end Eddie Lawson was declared the winner but only awarded half points because it was decided the second restart was not allowed under the rules. They are still arguing about the result of the 1978 British Grand Prix at Silverstone that was awarded to Kenny Roberts amidst chaos in the pouring rain.
No such problems when the rain stopped after a one hour 15-minute wait on Sunday. No arguments because everybody agreed it was so special watching such a spectacle in the wet and spray. Where do you start. Twenty laps of pure theatre in appalling condition where the rider’s skill and bravery shone through like those bolts of lightning that had lit up the dark sky earlier. What a ride by Miguel Olivera parting a passage though the waves for those behind him. Previously the Portuguese KTM rider had scored just nine points in his last ten races. On Sunday it was twenty-five points in single race. A performance worthy of a World Champion by Fabio Quartararo in second place with Johann Zarco cursing himself after the race for not pushing harder to claim that first MotoGP™ victory
How about the performance of Darryn Binder? Just his second MotoGP™ race after missing Moto2™ and jumping directly from Moto3™ amid a fair amount of cynicism. Tenth place was just reward for a brilliant ride that reminded me of the likes of Australians Garry McCoy and Jack Miller who also missed out the middle class before achieving considerable success in the premier class. McCoy won a couple of 125cc Grands Prix before switching to the 500cc class with great success winning three Grands Prix in 2000 on route to fifth place in the Championship.
Miller must have fancied his chances on Sunday. Who will forget his first MotoGP™ win in the Assen rain in 2016. That win came just two years after he had finished second in the 2014 Moto3™ World Championship winning six Grands Prix the same year. Binder’s only disappointment was that he did not manage to finish in front of his older brother Brad who eventually was eighth, but it was close.
As with all new venues of course there was logistical problems over the weekend, but they will be rectified. For those amazing Indonesian mad MotoGP™ fans singing in the rain there will be more opportunities to watch their heroes in action. They had waited 25 years for Grand Prix racing to return to their country and so the one hour 15-minute delay for the rain to abate was a small but wet inconvenience. For me I really do not mind getting up 6.00 am on a Sunday morning to witness such a spectacle especially with a cup of tea and in the dry.