Bulega beats Manzi in Magny-Cours showdown, Debise takes maiden podium

Saturday, 9 September 2023 14:28 GMT

The two Championship contenders went head-to-head in France with Nicolo Bulega able to hold on despite Stefano Manzi’s pressure

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) resisted Stefano Manzi’s (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) late-race pressure to claim Race 1 victory in the FIM Supersport World Championship at the Circuit de Nevers Mangy-Cours as he pulled out another five points over his title. The pair finished ahead of Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) whose strong pace at the Pirelli French Round translated into his first WorldSSP podium which he got to celebrate in front of his home fans.

TOP TWO BATTLE, EMOTIONAL PODIUM: Bulega vs Manzi, Debise celebrates

Championship leader Bulega got off to a flying start as the lights went out and the #11 instantly pulled out a gap over his rivals to more than two seconds by the end of Lap 5 as he looked to extend his Championship leader over title rival Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha). Despite the 2024 factory Ducati rider’s early pace, Manzi pulled off his usual tactic of closing in on Bulega as the race progressed, with the gap down to 1.5 second at the end of Lap 7.

Manzi, who took advantage of Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) running wide at Turn 3 on Lap 2 to move into second, kept closing the gap on his rival as he lapped around a tenth quicker than the Championship leader. While Manzi was closing in on Bulega, home hero Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) was going with them as he went in search of a maiden WorldSSP podium with the #94 remaining within around a second of Manzi until just after the halfway stage of the 19-lap race.

As the final third started, the gap dropped under a second between Bulega and Manzi as the pair dropped Debise to leave the fight for victory between the two Italians. At the end of Lap 17, the gap was down to just three tenths, but the Championship leader extended the lead again on the final lap to more than half-a-second to claim victory and extend his lead to 51 points; giving the #11 two race wins worth of advantage over his rival. With the duo pulling away from Debise, the Frenchman was able to take a comfortable but emotional maiden podium in front of his home fan.

Bulega’s victory was his tenth of the season, tying him with Dominique Aegerter’s total from his first title-winning campaign in 2021 while he was only two behind Andrea Locatelli’s 12 wins in 2020. It was Manzi’s 16th podium since his switch to WorldSSP while Debise became the 104th rider to stand on the World Supersport rostrum and the 12th French rider.

NOTHING TO SEPARATE: a huge fight for the points

Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki), fresh from his Kawasaki WorldSBK test, took fourth as he finished three seconds away from the podium, but he also had a similar advantage over Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) in fifth as four different manufacturers finished in the top five in Race 1. Tuuli’s P5 came off the back off an incredible move on Montella after he went around the outside of the #55 at Turn 5 at around the halfway stage of the race. After a strong start, Italian rider Montella had to fend off a late challenge from Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) in seventh with just two tenths separating them.

SCRAPPING IT OUT: Dalla Porta takes first points

There was a big scrap for the lower end of the top ten positions with Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) securing P8, eight seconds clear of Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) in ninth and tenth respectively. On the final lap, the #54 fell behind the WorldSSP-newcomer but he was able to re-pass the 2019 Moto3™ World Champion. Despite losing out on P9, Dalla Porta scored his first points since his switch from Moto2™ to WorldSSP.

SECURING POINTS: French riders celebrate points at home

Home hero Andy Verdoia (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) was 11th and just half-a-second away from the top ten, and he was clear of compatriot Johan Gimbert (GMT94 Yamaha). Gimbert, competing as a wildcard this weekend, scored his first points in WorldSSP with 12th although he was 11 seconds down on Verdoia. Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo MIE AIR Racing) was 13th and the lead WorldSSP Challenge rider, as well as the only one to score points, and he extended his lead in the Challenge standings. He was just two tenths clear of Simon Jespersen (VFT Racing WEBIKE Yamaha) in 14th as he took two points on his return to the Championship, while John McPhee (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) took 15th.

FIGHTING BACK: De Rosa goes from last to just outside the points

Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was 16th after battling back from last after a lap one spill. He went down at Turn 5 and dropped to the back of the field but slowly worked his way up the order to claim 16th, 2.5 seconds away from the points. He was directly ahead of Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) who finished 17th in his first WorldSSP race since April on his return from injury. Tom Edwards (Yart-Yamaha WorldSSP Team) was 21st after he had to serve a Long Lap Penalty for a Turn 6 shortcut and not losing sufficient time, with Ondrej Vostatek (PTR Triumph) having the same penalty for the same offence and finishing 22nd. Luke Power (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) was 28th and the last classified rider after he had a Lap 2 crash at Turn 15 but re-joined the race.

HOUSEKEEPING: three retirements from Race 1

Jorge Navarro’s (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) race came to an early end when he crashed out on Lap 3 at Turn 7 while running in the top ten. Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) was in the points when he was ordered to stop with a technical issue with this Yamaha machine, making him the second retirement. Wildcard Matthieu Gregorio (Moto Ain) brought his bike into the pits towards the end of the race to retire.

The top six from WorldSSP Race 1, full results here:

1. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team)

2. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +0.587s

3. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) +4.898s

4. Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) +7.701s

5. Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) +9.969s

6. Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) +12.013s

Fastest lap – Valentin Debise (Yamaha), 1’40.928s

Watch WorldSSP Race 2 from 12:30 Local Time (GMT+2) on Sunday using the WorldSBK VideoPass!