History lesson: MXGP World Championship Grand Prix & Asia

MXPG Indonesia 2023, Sumbawa Rider: Febvre

One factor that makes the FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship so special is the exotic locations covering the whole World. Yes, it´s true, the series has always had a strong relationship with Europe, and most of the rounds take place there, but as the sport grows so too do the destinations.

Traveling to countries like Argentina, Indonesia, Brazil, Australia, and South Africa always gave the series a special look. This year (this weekend, actually) the series heads to Indonesia for a double-header round on the island of Lombok for rounds 11th and 12th under the names of MXGP of West Nusa Tenggara and the MXGP of Lombok, respectively.

Let´s take a look at the Grand Prix held in Asia.

FIRST DESTINATION: INDONESIA

The first Indonesian Grand Prix was the penultimate round of the 1995 125cc World Championship on the island of Yogyakarta. Kawasaki’s Sebastien Tortelli won both races that Sunday, July 30.

Yogyakarta then held another two rounds of the 125cc class in the next two seasons: The 1996 round six was won again by Sebastien Tortelli, while in 1997 Alessio Chiodi kicked off the season with a dominant 1-1.

JAPAN:

For many years Asia disappeared from the MXGP calendar until it returned again, but this time in Japan for three years in a row: 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Australian Billy Mackenzie won each Japanese Grand Prix – Image: Ray Archer

Those Grand Prix in Japan were always a brilliant event with the magnificent Sugo circuit bringing success to Australian Billy Mackenzie who won three times (one in MX2 and twice in MXGP) and of course, Christophe Pourcel and Stefan Everts also won there too. After those three consecutive races in Japan, Asia again dropped off the calendar, until Thailand appeared in the form of the second round of the 2013 Grand Prix season.

THAILAND:

Held at the Si Racha circuit in the outskirts of Pattaya, a beautifully prepared circuit saw Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings take victories and an explosive superfinal brought the large crowd to their feet on many occasions. We returned to Si Racha again in 2014 and again Cairoli and Herlings were the overall winners.

A year later and on a very warm day in March 2015, the MXGP riders arrived at the spectacular Nakhonchaisri circuit, and it was American Ryan Villopoto who claimed his sole MXGP win of his career with a consistent 1-3. Meanwhile, Herlings picked up his third straight MX2 overall in Thailand.

Ryan Villopoto won his sole MXGP Grand Prix in Thailand 2015 – Image: JP Acevedo

Moving further north in 2016, the MXGP and MX2 riders turned up at the Suphan Buri circuit and it was Roman Febvre winning the MXGP overall while Herlings in the MX2 class, en route to his fourth win in a row on Thailand soil.

BACK TO INDONESIA & WELCOME CHINA:

With our Thailand adventures well and truly enjoyed, the MXGP championship changed countries as Indonesia returned to the grand prix calendar for the first time in more than two decades. The small island of Pangkal Pinang was where we would all arrive and after pouring rain and a waterlogged circuit, Scotsman Shaun Simpson took out the GP overall in MXGP and Jeremy Seewer on the MX2 class. Both classes held just one race as the circuit was more or less under water.

Samuele Bernardini (TM) finished 2nd after a moto win – Pangkal Pinang 2017 – Image: JP Acevedo

2018 and two Indonesian rounds made it on the MXGP calendar, with the first again on Pangkal Pinang, with Herlings taking yet another Asian GP victory and Calvin Vlaanderen winning in the MX2 class. A week later at a very impressive Semarang circuit on the main island of Java, Jorge Prado won the MX2 class and Mr Asia himself, Jeffrey Herlings won the MXGP class, his sixth GP win in Asia.

2019 there were three GPs in Asia, the first two in Indonesia and the third in China. Palembang was the opening Indonesian GP, which was won by Tim Gajser in MXGP and Jorge Prado in MX2. The second Indonesian round returned to Semarang, with Prado and Gajser clocking up a double each in the MX2 and MXGP classes.

Fernandez and Prado made history at the MXGP of Lombok 2022 – Image: JP Acevedo

China would be the final GP of the 2019 season and Herlings returned with a victory in MXGP, while Prado won in MX2. Due to Covid, Asia dropped off the calendar since that Chinese Grand Prix, but in 2022 turned back at the Sumbawa Island which hosted the 12th round. Another trip to Indonesia but this time Tim Gajser topped the premier class followed by Jorge Prado and Ruben Fernandez, a milestone podium for Spaniard fans as was the first time that two Spaniard riders share a podium in any class of the MXGP World Championship.

Last year we had another double-header round in Indonesia but in two different locations. The first one was in Sumbwata Island and the next one in Lombok. Romain Febvre won both rounds, but in the MX2 class, Lucas Coenen and Jago Geerts shared wins respectively.

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