Bulega brilliance gives him seventh heaven as he extends WorldSSP Championship lead

Saturday, 1 July 2023 15:25 GMT

The Italian rider was posting lap record pace throughout the 19-lap race as he beat title rival Stefano Manzi to victory in the UK

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) made it a Saturday to remember for Ducati at Donington Park as he claimed victory over title rival Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) after a thrilling Race 1. Polesitter Bulega’s win meant he ended Yamaha’s winning run at the Prosecco DOC UK Round to extend his Championship lead by five points, with the Italian winning by more than a second although that gap was almost three seconds at one point.

SEVENTH HEAVEN: Bulega racks up another win, first 2023 podium for Montella

Championship leader Bulega started from pole position and kept the lead from the start ahead of Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) and Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha). While the duo kept the pressure on in the early stages of the race, the Ducati rider was able to lap in the 1’29s to smash the race lap record and pull out a gap of two seconds on Manzi, in second, after six laps. The Ten Kate Racing rider moved into second after he passed Montella at Turn 11 on the opening lap.

On Lap 6, Manzi was able to pull the gap down as he lapped in the 1’29s while Bulega slowed into the 1’30s but they were soon both lapping in 1’29s with just a tenth separating their race pace in the first part of the encounter. However, as the second half got underway, Bulega was able to stretch his legs again and he pulled out a gap of almost three seconds at the end of Lap 11. The gap was maintained at round three seconds over the next few laps as Bulega extended his Championship lead by five points over Manzi with victory. Although the gap reduced in the closing stages, Bulega held on to win by 1.2s.

The battle for third featured two Italian riders as Montella and Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) fought it out for a podium. Montella, who started from the middle of the first row, dropped out of the top three when ‘Carica’ overtook him at Turn 11 on Lap 6 before the one-time winner was able to respond. From there, he was able to pull out a gap of more than two seconds on his rival to secure his first podium of the year and his second in WorldSSP.

Bulega’s seventh win puts him level with Andrew Pitt, Caricasulo and Randy Krummenacher at 11th place in the all-time winners’ list, while it was also his 18th podium; half of which have come in 2023. Manzi is now on a run of four consecutive podium finishes and has seven in total in World Supersport while Montella claimed his second rostrum.

FANTASTIC AND FIERCE FIGHTS: drama at the last corner

Caricasulo dropped back from Montella but he had a huge margin over the group behind as he secured fourth. It had looked like Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) would take fifth but a stunning last-lap battle with Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) dropped them both down the order. Schroetter made a move at the Foggy Esses before the Frenchman responded immediately into the Melbourne Loop. The German rookie tried to fight back with a move at Turn 12, the final corner, with both running onto the grass on the outside of the corner.

This allowed Dutch rider Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team), who had been running in the top-five throughout the majority of the race, to claim fifth place with Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) in sixth to take his best result at Donington Park. The Schroetter-Debise battle also allowed Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) to surge into seventh place, with the MV Agusta rider taking eighth. Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) secured his first top-ten finish of 2023 with ninth, and he also finished as the top WorldSSP Challenge rider, with Debise rounding out the top ten.

FIGHTING BACK, DROPPING DOWN: mixed fortunes in the points

Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had a sublime Superpole session on Saturday morning but he was unable to covert this into a top-ten finish. Despite fighting hard, the French rider dropped down the order to finish 11th. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) finished around five seconds behind Mahias as he took 12th while he had an almost four-second margin over Turkish star Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse).

The Barcelona winner lost time when he ran wide at Turn 12 on Lap 5 but he was able to continue and secure another points-paying position, while Tom Edwards (Yart-Yamaha WorldSSP Team) took 14th and Niki Tuuli (Dynavolt Triumph), who started from the second row, fell to 15th. Wildcard Rhys Irwin (Astro-JJR Suzuki) missed out on a point-scoring return for Suzuki as he took 16th, with Andy Verdoia (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) in 17th and Jack Kennedy (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) in 18th. Verdoia is standing in for Apiwath Wongthananon while Kennedy was a last-minute replacement for Andrea Mantovani after he was declared unfit on Friday.

HOUSEKEEPING: drama in Race 1

Wildcard Eugene McManus (Completely Motorbikes Triumph) crashed at Turn 9 on the opening lap to bring his race to an early end, with his bike catching fire in the gravel before it was tended to by the marshals. At the end of Lap 2, Harry Truelove (Dynavolt Triumph) and Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing WEBIKE Yamaha) crashed at Turn 12. Spinelli was able to take his bike to the pits and he re-joined four laps down, but Truelove retired from the race and was taken to the medical centre for a check-up. The Brit will be reassessed tomorrow morning after being diagnosed with a thorax contusion. Adam Norrodin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) also retired in the early stages of the race.

Reigning WorldSSP300 Champion Alvaro Diaz (Arco Yart Yamaha WorldSSP) crashed at Turn 8 on Lap 5 although he was able to re-join, albeit a lap down, but he retired with a technical problem in the final stages. Thai sensation Anupab Sarmoon (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team), who impressed in the rain on Friday, crashed on Lap 9 which ended his race prematurely.

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

1 Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team)

2. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +1.231s

3. Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) +6.615s

4. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) +10.903s

5. Glenn van Straalen EAB Racing Team) +17.833s

6. Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) +18.816s

Watch more thrilling WorldSSP race action on Sunday at 15:00 Local Time (GMT+1) using the WorldSBK VideoPass!