After 21 years of waiting, Italy can enjoy a WorldSSP Champion at last

Sunday, 20 September 2020 12:44 GMT

Despite the success in WorldSBK and other Championships, WorldSSP had yet to be conquered by the Italians. Now, Andrea Locatelli has made more history…

It has been a long time coming for an Italian rider to take the FIM Supersport World Championship but at long last, ending over two decades of WorldSSP title drought, Andrea Locatelli (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) gave Italy the crown. The country has provided many a racing hero over the years and most have come through WorldSSP at some point, but despite their efforts, this is the first Championship in the class. It’s also the first for Italy in the WorldSBK paddock since Max Biaggi in World Superbike in 2012.

Italy have been successful in the class before, but that was when it was known as the Supersport World Series and not as an official FIM Supersport World Championship that it is today. Paolo Casoli took the first Supersport World Series title in 1997 and the late Fabrizio Pirovano was Champion for Italy the year later. But since it became a World Championship in 1999, misfortune came Italy’s way.

In 2000, Paolo Casoli missed out on the title by a mere three points to German rider, Jörg Teuchert, having led the Championship two rounds previously and despite both riders crashing out at Oschersleben; Casoli of his own accord whilst Teuchert was taken out by his own teammate at the penultimate corner on the final lap. The final round saw Casoli finish fifth and another title contender – Stephane Chambon – crash, paving the way for Teuchert to take the title. But there’s always next year…

Casoli went into the final round of the 2001 season at Imola with an 11-point advantage but even that wasn’t enough, as he was taken out on the first lap by Karl Muggeridge at the Villeneuve Chicane. Andrew Pitt took the title without winning a single race and this time, just two points stood between an Italian Championship triumph. It would be the last year for over a decade where an Italian challenged for the WorldSSP crown.

Numerous race winners came and went for Italy, with Casoli taking a last career victory in 2002 at Oschersleben, whilst it would be three years until the next win for the nation. Gianluca Nannelli took advantage of a two-part aggregate wet weather race at Imola to win for Ducati – their last win in WorldSSP to-date. Massimo Roccoli was victorious at Misano, before Michele Pirro won at Imola in 2010 – ironically, all three wins coming from third on the grid.

Wins began to pick up after Pirro’s success, as Luca Scassa took three wins in 2011, whilst Lorenzo Lanzi took a stunning, against-the-odds win at Assen in 2012. 2013 would be winless but 2014 saw Lorenzo Zanetti bring MV Agusta to home success at Imola. 2015, winless again despite six podiums from Zanetti and third in the Championship.

2016 saw the arrival of Federico Caricasulo but he wasn’t the Italian flying the flag. Breaking the hearts of the Malaysian fans, Ayrton Badovini denied Zulfahmi Khairuddin a home win at Sepang, taking victory in a last-lap last-corner shoot-out. 2017 saw Roberto Rolfo win at Phillip Island, to become the first Italian to lead the Championship standings in WorldSSP since Assen in 2011, whilst Federico Caricasulo would take two more wins for the country. Since then, Caricasulo had been the rider doing the winning for Italy but came up short in 2019, beaten by his teammate Randy Krummenacher. Now, after a dominant season, Andrea Locatelli is the new star of the World Supersport show; all but one victory, every pole, every fastest lap and in all, only the Catalan weather stopping a 100% hit rate; Locatelli has taken the Championship by storm in a way that’s never been seen before and in the process, he has done his country proud. What is next for the dominant rookie?

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