The two Italians finished 1-2 in a shortened Aragon encounter as Manzi delayed Bulega’s crowning moment until at least Portimao
Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) will have to wait to win the 2023 FIM Supersport World Championship title despite victory in Race 2 at MotorLand Aragon. His title rival, Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), finished directly behind the #11 during the Tissot Aragon Round as the pair asserted their supremacy over the rest of the field but the five-point swing in the #11’s favour meant he was not crowned Champion in Spain.
BULEGA VS MANZI: top two finish 1-2
Bulega got the holeshot when the 15-lap race started and looked to clear off into the distance. The #11 set a new race lap record on Lap 2 when he posted a 1’53.191s as he moved two seconds clear of his rivals before the gap stabilised at just over 2.5 seconds. With Bulega setting the fastest lap of the race, he wrapped up the Pirelli Best Lap Award. Behind him, title rival Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) – the only rider who can stop Bulega being crowned Champion – battled his way up to second from fifth place on the grid, although he gained a free position due to Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) being penalised with a back of the grid start for a tyre pressure infringement.
Both Bulega and Manzi were matching each other for pace in the low 1’54s as they kept each other in check with neither taking a huge amount of time out of the other. The pair finished first and second which means the title fight will continue to Portimao next week. The gap between them is 85 points and the Ducati star will be crowned Champion in Race 1 next week if he finishes 75 points or more clear of his rival.
In the mid-stages of the race, Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) started closing in on the #62 directly ahead to reduce the gap to just over a second before the Yamaha rider responded to ensure ‘Carica’ stayed more than a second away. By the start of Lap 15, the gap was down to eight tenths before the red flags came out on the final lap. The race was stopped following a crash for Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) at Turn 4. The Finn was taken to the medical centre, and he was conscious following the crash. Tuuli was declared unfit with a left shoulder injury and chest contusion and was transported to Alcaniz Hospital for further assessments.
With the race reaching two-thirds distance, the results were declared at the last completed timing point for each other. Bulega took his 13th win of the season and takes his fourth consecutive win; the first time he’s reached this milestone in WorldSSP. Manzi’s second place gave him his 18th rostrum visit while Caricasulo took his 33rd.
A DIFFERENT STRATEGY: Sofuoglu’s choice pays off
Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) was one of a few riders to use the SC0 rear tyre and he used this to great effect as he claimed fourth, only a second away from Caricasulo. He was only half-a-second clear of teammate Marcel Schroetter in a close-fought battle for fourth. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) equalled his best WorldSSP result to date with sixth, benefitting from a crash for Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) on Lap 10 at the final chicane with dropped the Spaniard out of contention.
RETURNING TO THE TOP TEN: Montella fights back
Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) was back in the top ten as he finished in seventh ahead of Montella in eighth. The Italian had started from the back of the grid but soon battled his way up to the top ten, before finishing in eighth and only 11 seconds away from Bulega despite having to overtake several riders throughout the whole race. Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was ninth and four tenths back from Montella, while Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing WEBIKE Yamaha) returned to the top ten for the first time since Imola Race 1 as he rounded out the top ten.
CLOSING IN ON THE CHALLENGE TITLE: Booth-Amos gets closer
Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) strengthened his grip on the WorldSSP Challenge title with 11th place, missing out on a top ten by just under a second. He was six seconds clear of Ondrej Vostatek (PTR Triumph) in 12th as the Czech rider fended off a charging John McPhee (D34G Racing) in 13th. The Brit made his first appearance with Ducati machinery this weekend and responded from a Race 1 crash to take points, finishing only 0.062s behind Vostatek. Tom Edwards (Yart-Yamaha WorldSSP Team) was 14th with Yeray Ruiz (MDR Offitec Yamaha) rounding out the points-paying positions.
HOUSEKEEPING: retirements from Race 2
Glenn van Straalen’s (EAB Racing Team) race came to an early end when he crashed on the exit of Turn 1 on the opening lap when he highsided. while Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) retired after he crashed at Turn 14 on Lap 13.
The top six from WorldSSP Race 2, full results here:
1. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team)
2. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing WorldSSP) +2.284s
3. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) +3.076s
4. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +3.935s
5. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +4.418s
6. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +7.753s
Fastest Lap: Nicolo Bulega, Ducati – 1’53.191 (New Lap Record)
1. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) 408 points
2. Stefano Manzi Ten Kate Racing WorldSSP) 323
3. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) 269
4. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) 210
5. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) 159
6. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) 149
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