The Italian was almost unbeatable throughout 2023 as he claimed the title in stunning fashion, wrapping it up at Portimao as his journey to being a World Champion was complete
Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) wrapped up the FIM Supersport World Championship title in stunning fashion at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve with victory in Race 1. Following on from his 2023 title success, the Italian star sat down to discuss his incredible success. From being in a difficult moment when he joined Aruba Ducati in WorldSSP, to fending off his rivals and his team being ‘like a home’, the #11 opened up about his journey to becoming a World Champion and much more in an in-depth interview.
BULEGA REVIEWS 2023: “we are World Champions, and this is the most important thing”
Bulega joined WorldSSP for the 2022 season and was immediately on the pace as Ducati returned to the Championship, introducing the new Panigale V2 machine. He took nine podiums in his rookie season, before a first win came at the start of the 2023 season. From there, the #11 didn’t look back as he took 16 wins in total, and 14 when this interview was conducted, wrapping up the World Championship with three races to go. Victory in Race 1 at Portimao handed him the crown as he fended off Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) despite the Italian’s best efforts.
Reflecting on his title success before the season-ending Spanish Round, next year’s factory Ducati rider in WorldSBK said: “My team did an incredible job. They worked very hard on the bike. I enjoyed these two years a lot. Our goal was to win the Championship with me and my team and, in the end, we did it. We are World Champions, not ‘only I am World Champion’. It means a lot of things. To be World Champion is something that cannot happen every year. It’s something special. It’s a season that I will remember for all my life. I am very happy.
“Until Jerez, I won 14 races and Ducati won 15 in total. It means that me and my team are making the difference. People can think what they want but, in the end, we are World Champions, and this is the most important thing. I think I had an incredible package but maybe we are the only ones to bring out the best from this bike. Thanks to all my team because they gave me an incredible package. Not only the bike because it was important to have a good bike, but they gave me everything to be World Champion.”
THE SECOND CHAPTER: “maybe it was the second chance of my life…”
The Italian’s journey to being crowned was not an easy one. He won the CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship in 2015 and took two podiums in Moto3™ in three full campaigns. Both came in 2016, at Jerez and Motegi, before he moved to Moto2™ for 2019. A best Championship finish of 17th followed before he made the switch to WorldSSP, where he wrote the latest chapter of his illustrious career by being crowned World Champion.
Looking back on his path to success, the 24-year-old said: “When I won the Junior World Championship in 2015, everybody was speaking about me as the next MotoGP™ Champion. Too many things that I didn’t want to hear. They gave me more pressure and I didn’t need it at that time, I was too young. I was 16 years old, in my first year of the World Championship. I was just having fun with my bike. Maybe I was not ready to feel a lot of pressure. When you arrive at one point where you are not enjoying riding motorbikes, or going to the race circuits… this is what happened to me. The last two years in Moto2™ were especially bad for me. I was coming to this Championship in a bad situation and mentality because I was not ready to race.
“When I came to this paddock, and WorldSSP, I knew inside that it was my last possibility to be a professional rider. For me, maybe it was the second chance of my life. When I came to this team, I felt at home from the first test. I remember the first test in November 2021 and the first time I entered the garage to see the new faces and new guys to work with. I remember it very well because, when I went to sleep the same night, I was thinking, ‘Today was very good and I think there are a lot of people that I like’. This was very important. They welcomed me like it was a home. Every time, I needed something, they tried to help me; not only at the race track but also at home. I think, for a rider, it’s very important that when you stay away from home a lot during the year, when you stay in the garage with your team, it’s very important that it feels like home.”
BULEGA’S FUTURE: racing alongside Bautista in WorldSBK
For 2024, Bulega will partner Alvaro Bautista at the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team after earning the vacant seat at the factory Ducati squad. The WorldSSP Champion has already got his hands on the Panigale V4 R, having tested it on a few occasions including the post-Jerez test, but previewed what to expect from him in his rookie campaign and how racing alongside the reigning World Superbike Champion will benefit him as he adjusts in his rookie campaign.
Bulega said: “In 2024, I expect it to be difficult. The DNA of the V4 R is similar to my V2. A lot of things I had in my V2, felt good on the V4. I hope to be fast also with that bike. I’m happy because I’m going to WorldSBK with the best team with the best teammate. I think I can learn a lot from Alvaro because he’s doing an incredible job with the Panigale V4 R. I hope to be able to learn a lot from him, checking his telemetry, and I will try to understand a lot of things and then, maybe, in 2025 we will be fast.”
Relive some of Bulega’s best moments from 2023 using the WorldSBK VideoPass!