DUCATI’S LATEST CHAMPION: Bulega seals 2023 WorldSSP crown with Portimao Race 1 victory

Saturday, 30 September 2023 15:15 GMT

Bulega’s win meant he secured the Riders’ Championship title, and it also gave Ducati their first WorldSSP Manufacturers’ title

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) secured the FIM Supersport World Championship title with a commanding Race 1 victory at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. His win gave Ducati their first Manufacturers’ Championship title as the Italian brand celebrated a double success in WorldSSP and triple on Saturday after securing the latter title in WorldSBK in Race 1. The #11 finished directly ahead of rival Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) who, despite keeping the pressure on Bulega, was unable to delay Bulega’s crowning moment.

A NEW CHAMPION IS CROWNED: Bulega takes the title

Bulega initially got a bad start when the lights went out and it looked like rival Manzi would get ahead, but the #11 swept around the outside of Turn 1 to keep first place in the early stages. Despite his big pace advantage earlier in the weekend, Bulega was unable to pull out a gap over his adversary with Manzi remaining within a few tenths of the Championship leader. At the start of Lap 4, Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) overtook Manzi for second at Turn 1 as Bulega’s grip on the title strengthened even more in the early stages.

The #55 was instantly on the back of his compatriot as he set a new race lap record, going around half-a-second quicker than the existing one when he set a 1’43.686s, as he went in search of a second WorldSSP victory while they left Manzi around a second back. While Bulega and Montella were fighting for the win, Manzi’s teammate, Jorge Navarro, was closing in on his stablemate as he looked for his first podium of the year.

On Lap 7, Montella had a technical issue at Turn 11 which dropped him out of contention, giving Bulega a 1.4 second lead over Manzi at the start of Lap 7 and promoted Navarro to third. Manzi made up a couple of tenths on Lap 8 to bring the gap down as he lapped around half-a-tenth quicker in the mid-phase of the race. The #62 was pulling away from his chasing teammate while Manzi got the gap down to under a second on Lap 11, before losing half-a-second in the first half of the lap. At the end of the 18-lap race, Bulega was 1.371s clear of Manzi while Navarro took third after his strongest weekend in WorldSSP continued.

Bulega’s 14th win of the season meant he was crowned Ducati’s first WorldSSP Champion in their second season since returning, and he also secured the Italian brand’s first Manufacturers’ Championship crown. Manzi was on the podium for the 19th time in WorldSSP while Spaniard Navarro was on the rostrum for the first time since he swapped Moto2™ for WorldSSP.

A FIERCE FIGHT FOR FOURTH: scrapping it out

Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) held on for fourth after a three-rider fight. The German rookie passed Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) at Turn 1 on Lap 13 to move into fourth and held on despite the Frenchman’s best efforts. Initially, the #94 was losing ground to Schroetter but stabilised this once the MV Agusta got by. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) took sixth after losing ground in the closing stages, eventually finishing 1.160s down on Debise.

A ROLLERCOASTER DAY: Booth-Amos takes WorldSSP Challenge title despite De Rosa clash

Schroetter’s teammate, Bahattin Sofuoglu, fought his way through the field to take seventh, ahead of Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura). The WorldSSP veteran was given a Long Lap Penalty after a collision with Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) when the Brit was in seventh. The Brit came off his bike but was able to re-join and finish in 15th to take home a point and secure the WorldSSP Challenge title. Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) was ninth with Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) completed the top ten.

IN THE POINTS: Oncu drops down the order but scores again

Despite finishing as the top WorldSSP Challenge rider in 11th, Tom Edwards (Yart-Yamaha WorldSSP Team) was unable to prevent Booth-Amos securing the title. He was ahead of John McPhee (D34G Racing) in 13th with the Brit scoring points for the second consecutive race on Ducati machinery. Can Oncu’s (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) strong Superpole didn’t translate into a top ten finish, but he still scored points with 14th, finishing ahead of Booth-Amos.

HOUSEKEEPING: a post-race crash and retirements

Anupab Sarmoon (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) was 17th but was involved in a crash after the chequered flag was shown with Federico Fuligni (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) on the run between Turns 4 and 5. Both riders came off their bikes with Fuligni taken to the medical centre for a check-up following the crash. Fuligni was declared unfit with a fracture to his first and third metatarsal bone, and a fracture to his big toe on the right foot. The incident was placed under investigation by the FIM Stewards.

The opening lap of Adrian Huertas’ (MTM Kawasaki) could only be described as a nightmare. The Spaniard got off the line poorly and dropped to last before re-joining the race, but it came to an end at Turn 13 on Lap 1 when he crashed. Leonardo Taccini (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) retired from the race as did Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) after a Turn 8 crash on Lap 15.

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

1. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team)

2. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +2.637s

3. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +6.521s

4. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +14.090s

5. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) +14.250s

6. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) +15.410s

Fastest lap: Yari Montella (Ducati), 1’43.686s – New Lap Record

Championship standings

1. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) 433 points

2. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) 343

3. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) 280

4. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) 220

5. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) 168

6. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) 160

Congratulate Bulega on his title using #Bu1eGAS and watch Race 2 at 12:30 Local Time (GMT+1) using the WorldSBK VideoPass – now only €9.99!