CUTTING THE GAP: Manzi takes a chunk out of Bulega’s lead with victory in red-flagged Race 1

Saturday, 15 July 2023 14:26 GMT

The Italian rider led the entire race bar a few corners on Lap 1 to claim his second win of the season, taking nine points out of Nicolo Bulega’s title lead

Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) put in an almost-flawless performance to claim victory in the FIM Supersport World Championship’s opening race of the Prometeon Italian Round as he took a hefty haul of points out of Nicolo Bulega’s ( Racing WorldSSP Team) Championship lead. The race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola was red-flagged with the leaders on the final lap as the Championship battle heated up under the scorching Italian sun.

A TITLE RACE TWIST: Manzi wins, closes the gap to Bulega

Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing) got the holeshot but he was soon out of contention as he tumbled into the gravel at Turn 6 on the opening lap with the Italian dropping to last. He was able to re-join the race but, he opted to bring his bike back into the pits and retire. This allowed Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) to take the lead and escape from Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) in third, who seemed to be holding up Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team).

The Championship leader soon passed his compatriot as he moved into third and tried to close down Manzi and Schroetter ahead, as he looked to make up an almost two-second gap from Lap 2. By the end of Lap 3, the gap had been halved to just nine tenths to Schroetter and lapping around two tenths faster than the rookie directly ahead, although Schroetter was maintaining the gap to Manzi in the lead of the race. Bulega was three tenths quicker than the MV Agusta on Lap 5 as he set a 1’51.184s for the fastest lap at the time.

Once the Italian got on the back of Schroetter, he was unable to make the move with the gap between the top three just over a second at the start of Lap 10. Manzi started opening the lead over Schroetter with the fastest lap on Lap 10 as he set a 1’52.162s, three tenths quicker than the rookie, to extend his lead to over a second. His pace kept allowing him to extend the lead to around two seconds as the race progressed and he closed the gap in the Championship standings to Bulega by nine points; the gap is now 46 points with Bulega finishing in third place.

In his first campaign on Yamaha machinery, Manzi took his second win on the YZF-R6 and third in WorldSSP while it was also Yamaha’s 140th win in the Championship. It was Manzi’s 13th podium since he joined World Supersport, while Schroetter claimed his fifth in his rookie campaign. Bulega’s third place gave him his 20th rostrum while it was also the 50th for Ducati; the Bologna-based manufacturer able to celebrate a milestone on home soil.

DRAMA UNTIL THE END: the fight for fourth rages on

There was an eventful scrap for fourth between two WorldSSP300 graduates as Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) fought it out. Sofuoglu made the move on the 2021 WorldSSP300 Champion at Tosa, the left-hand hairpin, on Lap 8 to move into fourth but the Spaniard did not let Sofuoglu escape. On Lap 14, Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) fought his way up to fourth as he demoted Sofuoglu and Huertas, while French rider Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) overtook the Spaniard for sixth.

A lap later, Sofuoglu and Tuuli scrapped it out with the Finn passing his adversary into Rivazza 2 after Sofuoglu went defensive into the first Rivazza but he responded almost immediately as he pulled off a superb late-braking move on Tuuli into the final chicane. As the pair entered the Variante Bassa on the penultimate lap, Tuuli lost the front of his bike with Huertas having nowhere to go; the pair crashed, and the red flags were shown to end the race before the final lap could be completed. Tuuli was taken to the medical centre for a check-up following the crash; he will be reassessed on Sunday morning due to a right wrist contusion. The results were taken from the last completed time-keeping point for each rider.

That crash meant Montella was classified in fifth place with Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) in sixth. The Italian was involved in the final chicane incident but was able to stay on his bike, although he did lose time to Montella ahead. Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing WEBIKE Yamaha) was promoted to seventh. Debise, who had been involved in that battle, retired from the race with a handful of laps to go with a technical issue.

IN THE TOP TEN: Booth-Amos extends WorldSSP Challenge lead

Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) made another appearance in parc ferme as he secured top spot in the WorldSSP Challenge with eighth place, extending his standings lead over his WorldSSP Challenge rivals, and finished two seconds down on Spinelli. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who continues to substitute for Can Oncu, secured ninth while Huertas was able to remount his Kawasaki ZX-6R to be classified in tenth place.

LATE CALL UPS NO PROBLEM: success so far at Imola

Filippo Fuligni (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team), who received a late call-up to replace the injured Andrea Mantovani, took points on his WorldSSP return with 11th. He was ahead of wildcard Luca Ottaviani (Extreme Racing Service), with the Italian having three seconds added to his race time by the FIM Stewards. He was deemed to have ridden slowly in FP2 with the Stewards handing him a three-second penalty in lieu of a Long Lap Penalty. Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) battled his way back to take 13th after he was involved in a Lap 1 incident, while two riders who did not expect to race this weekend secured points. Andy Verdoia (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) stepped in for the still injured Apiwath Wongthananon and took 14th while Stefano Valtulini, replacing Yuta Okaya who’s suffering with gastroenteritis, was the last points scorer. Valtulini also had a three-second penalty after cutting the chicane at Turn 21, with this sanction given instead of a Long Lap Penalty.

HOUSEKEEPING: the retirements from Race 1

Federico Fuligni (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) crashed out of the race at Turn 2 on the opening lap after an incident involving Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team), Maximilian Kofler (D34G Racing) and wildcard Emanuele Pusceddu (J. Angel by Edafos). The incident was placed under investigation by the FIM Stewards with Pusceddu given a three-second time penalty, as an equivalent to a Long Lap, for irresponsible riding. This was his second time penalty, as he also had one for slow riding in FP2. However, before the penalties could be applied at the end of the race, the Italian was forced to stop with a technical problem.

Alvaro Diaz (Arco Yart Yamaha WorldSSP) crashed at Turn 18 after he was enjoying a strong weekend, with the reigning WorldSSP300 Champion taken to the medical centre for a check-up following the crash and declared fit. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) had his second crash of the day at Turn 12 on Lap 5 which forced him out of the race. Malaysia’s Adam Norrodin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) retired from the race not long after Navarro’s crash. Harry Truelove (PTR Triumph) and John McPhee (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) also did not finish.

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

1 Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha)

2. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse)

3. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team)

4. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse)

5. Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team)

6. Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura)

Fastest Lap: Stefano Manzi (Yamaha) – 1’52.162s

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