The quirks of Mandalika GP: Rain shaman, litter dominate post-race discussions

A screengrab rom MotoGP’s official Facebook account showing rain shaman Rara Istiani Wulandari “in action” during the 2022 Indonesia MotoGP at Mandalika Circuit in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, over the weekend.
A screengrab rom MotoGP’s official Facebook account showing rain shaman Rara Istiani Wulandari “in action” during the 2022 Indonesia MotoGP at Mandalika Circuit in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, over the weekend.

Don’t rain on my parade! 

That was probably the song in the minds of the 2022 Indonesia MotoGP Grand Prix’s organizers over the weekend. Held at the Mandalika International Street Circuit in Central Lombok on Sunday, it was the first time since 1997 that Indonesia hosted a race for the top motorbike racing competition.

With some suggesting that the major event was part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s ambition to promote non-Bali tourism (plus, like many Indonesians, His Excellency is a fan of MotoGP himself), there was no way they would let rain disturb the event.

Enter Rara Istiani Wulandari.

The rain-averting shaman was reportedly recommended by Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir to delay rain at Mandalika. Rara reportedly already proved her “ability” by diverting precipitation during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang (of which Erick was the committee leader).

For the Mandalika grand prix, Rara was employed by the state-owned Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation, one of the race’s organizers.

Rain shamans are still believed by many Indonesians to have the ability to delay rainfall and are often hired for outdoor events such as weddings.

Interestingly enough, while the official MotoGP Facebook account and a German media practically praised her, the same cannot be said for, wait for it, Indonesian netizens.

“Please repent, do not try to challenge God’s will,” said a Facebook user.

“There are still people who believe fraudsters. There are no such things as shamans anymore in this world. What exists are fraudsters who claim that they can control rain. Hopefully, God will give us enlightenment,” said another.

Others actually suggest that Rara had ‘failed’ to do her job because the rain came nonetheless.

While nasty social media comments might annoy some people, Rara herself gave a nonchalant shrug.

“I don’t have any problem [with such comments]. I said from the start that I’m doing this as a service for Indonesia,” said Rara, who reportedly was paid handsomely to do her job.

The Jayapura-born lady commented that she was actually asked to ensure there was some rain to ensure that circuit routes were less hot. By that token, she said she “managed” to get some rain in the morning, as well as drizzles in the afternoon so the racers would feel comfortable.

The Mandalika grand prix was held from March 18 to 20, culminating in packed spectator stands on race day.

Sadly, but perhaps expectedly, a video has gone viral showing litter (mostly discarded junk food boxes) left behind in the seating area.

“Welcome to Indonesia. Trash everywhere,” said the video taker.

While some pointed out how sad the situation was (Indonesia does have a problem in waste management, by the way), others actually made self-deprecating jokes about it.

“If the circuit is clean, then we should be amused,” one user commented. 

The grand prix also saw Spanish racer Marc Márquez, who was tipped for victory due to his recent impressive form, being sidelined after a major crash during warm up practice.

News circulated online that Márquez, nicknamed Baby Alien, was rejected by a local hospital because he did not have BPJS (Indonesia’s national health insurance). While it was clearly a joke, Minister of Communications and Information Johnny G. Plate (and other Indonesians) reportedly believed it at one point and wanted to check the validity of the “news.”

“I thought it was true,” Johnny said.

In an Instagram post, Márquez said that he and his team decided to not race at Mandalika as a precaution. He thanked the Mataram Hospital for the treatment he received.

Perhaps most importantly for racing fans, Portugal’s Miguel Oliveira of KTM Factory Racing won the race. He shared the podium with last season’s champion, Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, and another Frenchman, Johann Zarco.

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