Rain played havoc after an early red flag but Bulega mastered the conditions to end Ducati’s win drought with their last win coming in 2005
It was a dramatic opening race of the 2023 FIM Supersport World Championship with red flags and wet weather making Race 1 at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit during the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round as Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) claimed his first WorldSSP victory after mastering the wet-weather conditions in Australia. His victory also returned to Ducati to the top step of the WorldSSP podium for the first time since Imola in 2005.
RED FLAGS AND DELAYS: Bulega able to master the conditions
The race was restarted following a red flag on Lap 4 after a crash between Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) and Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) at Turn 7, with the new race a 12-lap distance at Phillip Island; the grid was restarted based at the end of the last completed time-keeping point for each rider. Both Montella and Huertas were taken to the medical centre for a check-up following the crash. Montella was declared unfit with a left collarbone fracture and Huertas was declared unfit with lumbar contusion and transferred to hospital for further assessments. However, following a delay to the restarted race due to weather conditions, the race was further reduced to 10 laps.
With the red flag delay, rain started to fall as the riders prepared to restart the race and a further delay ensued, with a mixed tyre selection on the grid. Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) had started on de facto pole position, following an incident on the Warm Up lap for Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti) but quickly dropped down the order as he opted for slick tyres. It meant those who opted for intermediate or wet tyres quickly pulled away, including Bulega. Bulega was able to hold on to claim victory after moving into the lead of the race on the opening lap of the restarted race to claim his first victory in any class since he won in Moto3™ CEV at Jerez in 2015. It also ended Ducati’s drought that runs back to Imola in 2005, when Gianluca Nannelli claimed victory.
Bulega’s victory of margin was just under a second ahead of rookie Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing Yamaha) after a late charge form the Italian to take second spot on his first appearance with the team, while he also took the team’s first podium. John McPhee (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) claimed a debut third place, becoming the 100th podium finisher in WorldSSP despite starting 20th on the original grid. McPhee was running third when the red flags were deployed and he, with Bulega and Spinelli, all on full wet tyres.
BATTLING FOR A TOP SEVEN: five manufacturers in the top five…
Niki Tuuli (Dynavolt Triumph) started from 12th place but battled his way up to fourth place, 11 seconds down on Bulega after 10 laps, while Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE MS Racing HONDA Team) claimed fifth spot on his debut and Honda’s return to WorldSSP; Honda’s points remain provisional after an FIM statement. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) after he started on pole position for the original race. Manzi had been fighting back to catch the lead trio but dropped back as more rain fell towards the end of the race. With Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Triumph and Honda in the top five, five of the six manufacturers were in the top six while MV Agusta were seventh with Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse).
IN THE TOP TEN: a dramatic debut…
Anupab Sarmoon (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) took eighth on his WorldSSP debut, as well as his team’s debut, with another debutant just behind in ninth. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) took ninth spot, less than half a second down on Sarmoon, while Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) took tenth place.
IN THE POINTS: rookies score, slick tyres drop back
British rider Harry Truelove (Dynavolt Triumph) took 11th place on his first start for Triumph, finishing ahead of Malaysian rider Adam Norrodin (PETRONAS MIE MS Racing HONDA Team) who took 12th place. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) was 13th and a lap down on Bulega after opting for slick tyres, as was van Straalen after starting the restarted race from the front row. Apiwath Wongthananon (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) took the last points-paying position, while Oli Bayliss (D34G Racing) and Raffaele De Rose (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) were 16th and 17th respectively. Bayliss had got a superb start in the early stages of the original race but dropped back after slick tyres in the restarted race.
HOUSEKEEPING: to note from Race 1
On the Warm Up lap for the restarted race, Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) crashed at Turn 4 which put him out of the race. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) crashed into Oncu’s stranded bike which also put him out of the race. Andrea Mantovani’s (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha) race came to an end on Lap 8 of the restarted race after he crashed at Turn 8.
The top six following WorldSSP Race 1, full results here:
1. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team)
2. Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing Yamaha) +0.942s
3. John McPhee (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) +2.965s
4. Niki Tuuli (Dynavolt Triumph) +11.624s
5. Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE MS Racing HONDA Team) +15.838s
6. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +19.700s
Watch Sunday action from Australia from 10:55 Local Time (GMT+11) using the WorldSBK VideoPass!