Bulega had "very good feeling" with the Panigale V4 R, "would like to stay with Ducati" if he moves to WorldSBK
The WorldSSP Championship leader got his first experience of the Panigale V4 R with a test at Jerez where he racked up over a century of laps
The break in the calendar in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship allowed one rider from WorldSSP to get on a Ducati Panigale V4 R machine for the first time as Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) tested the WorldSBK-spec machine at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto. Bulega completed more than 100 laps during his test on the Panigale V4 R machine as he used the test to understand the bike.
Bulega, now in his second WorldSSP season on the Ducati Panigale V2, started the season with two wins at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and backed that up with fifth in Race 1 at the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit and third in Race 2. Bulega leads the Championship standings by 18 points over compatriot Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) in the early stages of the season.
His Race 1 win in Australia ended Ducati’s victory drought which had stretched back to 2005 when Gianluca Nannelli claimed victory at Imola, while it was also Bulega’s first in WorldSSP after coming close in his maiden campaign but just missing out on victory. Following the start of the season, Bulega was able to test the Panigale V4 R machine at Jerez to get his first taste of WorldSBK machinery.
Explaining how the test went, Bulega said: “It was very good. It was my first time with the V4 R and, already from the first day, the feeling was very good. I think I was fast for my first day on that bike, 100 horsepower or so more than my usual bike. It was very difficult to understand but it was also, I think, easy to understand the character of the bike because they did a very good job with this bike. Nothing special because it was my first time. The first day was just to try to understand the character of the bike because it was very different from my usual Panigale V2. I didn’t try anything new. It was a test just for me to understand the bike.”
Bulega made his WorldSSP debut in the 2022 season and impressed as Ducati returned to the Championship, taking nine podiums throughout his maiden campaign and taking fourth in the Championship despite a mid-season dip in form which he recovered as the season drew to a close. Three podiums, including two wins, have started his campaign off in superb style as he looks to become Ducati’s first WorldSSP Champion. From the 2022 grid, Dominique Aegerter and Lorenzo Baldassarri stepped up to WorldSBK with the GYRT GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team and GMT94 Yamaha teams respectively, while Andrea Locatelli went straight into the factory Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK squad following his 2020 WorldSSP success.
Reflecting on 2023 so far, and also evaluating a potential move to WorldSBK in the future, Bulega said: “I think, if I continue to be first in WorldSSP, my target is trying to get to WorldSBK because I think this is normal. If you win the first category, then, I think, you have to go to the second one. If you win Moto3™ you go to Moto2™, if you win Moto2™ you go to MotoGP™. I think it’s the same, if you win WorldSSP you have to go to WorldSBK. My target this year is trying to win the Championship and then, if it’s possible, try to go to WorldSBK. I think we started well in the first two rounds so I will try to continue to be fast like in the first two rounds, and then I will think about World Superbike.”
Despite it being early on in the 2023 season, eyes will be on the 2024 rider line-up in both WorldSSP and WorldSBK soon. Bulega outlined where he would like to be in the future, saying: “At the moment, no, but I would like to stay with Aruba because I think they are a very good team, and also Ducati. They took me from Moto2™ at a bad moment in my career because I didn’t finish my career there in a good way, but they believed in me; they gave me a very good team and a very good bike. I would like to stay with them and try to make my first year in WorldSBK.”
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