ONE HAND ON THE TITLE: Bulega brilliance gives him Race 1 victory, Manzi P11 after last-lap mistake

Saturday, 23 September 2023 14:26 GMT

Bulega can be crowned 2023 Champion as soon as Sunday after a race full of drama in Spain…

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) has one hand on the FIM Supersport World Championship title after his victory in Race 1 at MotorLand Aragon, coupled with Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) finishing outside the top ten, allowed him to open up his standings lead to 80 points. The #11 was untouchable on Saturday after a stunning Tissot Superpole session and he kept that form up in Race 1 to edge closer to a first World Supersport crown with victory by more than three seconds as his rivals squabbled behind him.

BULEGA WINS, MANZI 11TH: the gap opens up…

Bulega got the holeshot when the 15-lap race got underway and was immediately pulling clear of his rivals as he looked to put one hand on the title, and his gap over Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) at the end of the opening lap was one second, before extending that to 1.6s on Lap 2. Title rival Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) made gains on the opening lap as he passed Federico Caricauslo (Althea Racing Team) at Turn 8 but the #62 found himself 1.7s down on Bulega at the end of his opening lap.

The Ten Kate rider had to fend off Caricasulo in the early stages as the #64 looked to re-claim the position he lost to Manzi on the opening lap. This allowed Montella to pull away from his two fellow Italians behind him. As the race progressed, Caricasulo found himself under pressure from Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) who was bringing Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki), Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) with him. Meanwhile, Bulega was extending his lead out in front.

With the #64 having to defend, Manzi was able to escape a little bit up the road as he looked to close down Montella for second. On Lap 10, the Yamaha rider gained a huge amount of time over Montella and briefly got ahead of the one-time race winner, before the Ducati star responded immediately. On the same lap, Huertas retired from the race with a technical issue. A lap later and Manzi barged his way through on his compatriot at Turn 13, catching him by surprise, with Montella then having to fend off Schroetter; the German got through at Turn 16 on the same lap.

Turn 1 on Lap 13 was where Schroetter moved into P2 as Montella and Caricasulo kept themselves in the hunt for a podium. The #62 made a move at Turn 15 to re-take P2 but Schroetter was able to respond into the next corner before starting to edge out a gap to claim second with Manzi secured third. On the final lap, Manzi ran wide at Turn 15 as he looked to pass Schroetter for second but dropped down to 11th, with the German and Montella making up the podium.

Bulega crossed the line 3.5 seconds ahead of Schroetter for his 12th win and 16th podium of the season, and with Manzi dropping down the order, he can be crowned Champion on Sunday if he leaves the Spanish circuit 100 points clear of Manzi; the gap is now 80. It was Schroetter’s seventh podium since his switch to WorldSSP while Montella claimed his fifth. The #55’s rostrum was also Italy’s 191st in the Championship and tied them with France at top spot in the all-time list.

JUST MISSING OUT: so close to a podium

Caricasulo finished the race fourth and just two tenths away from a podium after the dramatic battle, with 4.3 seconds separating the top four. De Rosa took fifth while Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), who had joined the battle in the closing stages before dropping back down the order, was sixth and less than a second away from De Rosa. All three riders who finished between P4 and P6 were all in the podium fight at times before securing their finishing positions.

NOTHING TO SEPARATE THEM: two tenths keep three riders apart

Dutch rider van Straalen was seventh despite being in the lead group in the early stages as the Yamaha rider dropped down the order, as he fended off Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) and Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) by just two tenths at the flag. It was a closely-fought battle for the places in the top ten with French rider Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha), fresh from his maiden podium last time out, completed the top ten. He was almost 12 seconds off the lead as he benefitted from Manzi’s last-lap excursion. Manzi was just a quarter of a second behind Debise at the line.

SCORING POINTS: Diaz equals his best, wildcard in 12th

Wildcard Yeray Ruiz (MDR Offitec Yamaha) secured points at his home round with 12th while Alvaro Diaz ( Racing WorldSSP Team) was 13th. The reigning WorldSSP300 Champion equalled his best result in WorldSSP as he secured points as well as finishing as the lead WorldSSP Challenge rider. He was directly ahead of MotoE™ race winner Nicholas Spinelli in 14th as he took points on his return to WorldSSP action after missing the French Round. Ondrej Vostatek (PTR Triumph) completed the points-scoring places.

HOUSEKEEPING: a Ducati debut to forget for McPhee

John McPhee’s first race with D34G Racing ended after just one complete lap as he crashed at Turn 3 at the start of Lap 2. He was the first retirement from the race. Tom Booth-Amos’ (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) race ended on Lap 6 when he had a technical issue, while debutant Hector Garzo (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) crashed out on Lap 9 and Turn 7.

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

1. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team)

2. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +3.581s

3. Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) +4.106s

4. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) +4.306s

5. Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) +5.830s

6. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +6.763s

Fastest lap: Nicolo Bulega (Ducati), 1’53.488s – new lap record

Don’t miss WorldSSP Race 2 on Sunday from 12:45 Local Time (GMT+2) using the WorldSBK VideoPass – now only €9.99!