Sentul Circuit's flame burned brightly in the mid-1990s but has since faded considerably – despite the odd resurgence – and Indonesia's only permanent facility has in recent years had to make do hosting national level events where once it had hopes to lure Formula One.
It's fortunes could be about to change, however, with news that it is to undergo a redesign at the behest of the Governor of West Java, Ridwan Kami.
Following its renovation in 2022, it will become known as the West Java Sentul Circuit, with the lofty aim of becoming the 'pride of Indonesia' once again.
It was conceived as a replacement for the Ancol Circuit, which had held Indonesia's first races in 1976 but had proven totally unsuitable for modern racing and safety standards. Thanks to the patronage of Hutomo Mandala Putra, son of President Suharto and a keen motor racing enthusiast, the project progressed quickly, with construction beginning in January 1992 and completed for a 'soft opening' on December 6.
The inauguration did not take place until August 1993, however, when the Australian Formula Holden category contested the Indonesian Grand Prix in F3000-style cars. Some time V8 Supercar diver/owner and now pitlane pundit Mark Larkham ran out the winner.
If the event was designed to showcase the new circuit's suitability for Formula One, it failed. In truth, the circuit as built was not quite to F1 standards – concerns over possible river intrusion at the northern end of the site forced the completion of the circuit to a slightly shorter design than originally envisaged; too short for F1. However, the circuit did host the top classes in two-wheeled racing. From 1994 to 1997, the World Superbike Championship made Sentul its home, with John Kocinski and Carl Fogarty multiple winners. The GP500 class also paid visits in 1996 and 1997, Mick Doohan and Tadayuki Okada running out as victors.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis hit the circuit hard, forcing the cancellation of further Grand Prix and Superbike events and it wasn't until 2006 before international racing visited again, with a round of the A1 Grand Prix series. A second event was held the following year before a planned switch to a street course was stymied by the collapse of the A1GP series.
A deal to host the second race of the 2008 GP2 Asia Series promised a further continuation of international racing but proved something of a disaster. Heavy rains in the run up to the event led to poor track conditions, with debris a major problem . Flying stones and dust pelted the cars and drivers helmets as the track surface began to break up under the power of the F1 feeder series. Further criticism followed below-par marshalling which saw several extended safety car interventions while ill-equipped rescue teams struggled to remove stranded machines from the gravel traps around the circuit.
It was perhaps this which prompted the World Superbike Championship to cancel its mooted return in 2008, while a second attempt at reviving the race in 2013 similarly fell through, reportedly due to clauses requiring a track resurfacing not being met. Sentul has thereafter struggled to regain its world standing and its future seemed uncertain.
The opening of the Mandalika circuit could perhaps have presented a further blow, however it seems to have had the opposite effect in garnering the support of local politicians, keen to see their local circuit restored to prominence. In December 2021, the Governor of West Java Ridwan Kamil gave an official statement proclaiming the redesign of Sentul as part of project to return it to international prominence.
"Next year, it will be redesigned and revitalised to become one of the best circuits in the world named West Java Sentul International Circuit," he said, adding that he hoped that the circuit would hold another world-class event so that local tourism and the economy would improve.