BATTLE TO THE LINE: Manzi ends Bulega’s winning run after epic last-lap scrap

Sunday, 1 October 2023 12:31 GMT

Stefano Manzi came out on top in an unmissable final lap showdown against the 2023 Champion to claim victory by just 0.084s

Less than a tenth separated Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) and Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) in Race 2 at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve as the #62 came out on top after an incredible showdown. The Pirelli Portuguese Round once again played host to a FIM Supersport World Championship thriller as this year’s top two in the standings fought tooth and nail for victory in Portugal on the final lap.

A FIGHT TO THE END: Manzi vs Bulega for victory as Montella’s mistake proves costly

Newly-crowned Champion Bulega got the holeshot but his lead only lasted a couple of laps as Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) came through at Turn 3 on Lap 3 to take the lead. Two laps later and Bulega was demoted to third behind the rapid Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) at Turn 1 as the #55 moved into second. On Lap 6, Montella pulled off the same move on Manzi to claim the lead. Despite being relegated a place, the #62 was able to keep the pressure on while Bulega stayed within a few tenths of the lead duo.

At the start of Lap 9, Manzi gave Montella a taste of his own medicine as he overtook him at Turn 1 but, like when the positions were reversed, the pressure was kept on. Manzi was able to keep his pace in the 1’43s for longer than Montella and Bulega but his Lap 12 time was in the 1’44s with the trio staying close together. On Lap 14, the lead swapped again. Montella got a good run out of the final corner and was able to get ahead into Turn 1 before the pair swapped again a lap later.

On Lap 16, Montella ran wide from second at Turn 3 which allowed Bulega ahead of him to fight his year-long adversary for victory. On the final lap, the #11 made his move for the lead at Turn 1 with Manzi fighting back. The Yamaha rider was ahead into Turn 9 but the 2023 Champion pulled off an incredible move through Turn 9 to take the lead, albeit briefly. Manzi responded through Turns 10 and 11 before holding on for victory with just 0.084s between the two.

Manzi’s fifth in WorldSSP stopped Bulega’s streak at five victories, while it also means the #11 can’t match Dominique Aegerter’s record for victories in a season now which stands at 17. However, his 19th podium of the year surpasses the Swiss rider’s tally from 2021 with two races left this season. Montella’s third place secured Italy a 1-2-3 for the 10th time in WorldSSP while Italy moved closer to a milestone: the country now has 199 podiums in the Championship.

SCRAPPING FOR FOURTH: bouncing back from a difficult Saturday

Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) secured third in the World Championship as he took fourth, finishing three seconds behind Montella on the podium. He was 1.6 seconds clear of Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) in fifth as he made it four Italians inside the top five; Schroetter the only outlier. Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) bounced back from his Race 1 crash to take a top six finish and he had a similar margin to Caricasulo as the #62 did to Schroetter.

NOTHING TO SEPARATE: a tiny gap covering those in the top ten

Spanish rookie Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) was unable to back up his Race 1 rostrum as he finished seventh with the #9 losing ground at the start. It was a thrilling battle between Navarro and Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) on a race to the line, with Navarro resisting the WorldSSP veteran by just 0.036s. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) was ninth with Finnish rider Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) completing the top ten.

OVERCOMING A PENALTY FOR A POINT: Oncu fights back, Edwards the top WorldSSP Challenge rider

It was a strong weekend for wildcard rider for Yeray Ruiz (MDR Offitec Yamaha) as he scored points again, finishing 11th in Race 2 and narrowly missing out on a top-ten spot by just six tenths. However, he was also only 0.041s ahead of Tom Edwards (Yart – Yamaha WorldSSP Team) in 12th with the Australian finishing as the lead WorldSSP Challenge rider in his final race of the season. Ondrej Vostatek (PTR Triumph) secured 13th and was only half-a-second away from Edwards while he had a near five-second lead over John McPhee (D34G Racing) in 14th. Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) started in the top ten but finished in 15th after a double Long Lap Penalty. The Turkish star was deemed to have jumped the start and was penalised, with the #61 taking his penalties on Laps 5 and 6 before fighting back for a point. He was ahead of Alvaro Diaz (Arco Yart Yamaha WorldSSP) in 16th and Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) 17th. Sofuoglu was running in the top ten but a Turn 5 crash on Lap 14 dropped him out of contention.

HOUSEKEEPING: Huertas’ DNF streak continues

There were three retirements in Race 2, with two due to technical issues. Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing), who also had issues in the Warm Up session, retired on the opening lap after bringing his bike into the pits. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) had been running well but a technical issue meant he was forced to retire. Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) was the third and final retirement after he crashed his Kawasaki ZX-6R at Turn 13 on Lap 15.

The top six from WorldSSP Race 2, full results here:

1. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha)

2. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) +0.084s

3. Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) +3.278s

4. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +6.300s

5. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) +7.905s

6. Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) +9.427s

Fastest Lap: Stefano Manzi (Yamaha) – 1’43.627s

Championship standings

1 Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) 453 points

2. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) 368

3. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) 293

4. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) 231

5. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) 168

6. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) 160

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