PREVIEW: all for glory as WorldSSP gears up for final battle of 2023

Tuesday, 24 October 2023 06:51 GMT

Jerez is the stage, WorldSSP is the show: the final round of the year nears with plenty to play for

The season is drawing to a close in the FIM Supersport World Championship and with the much-loved Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto making a return to bring a conclusion to the year, there’s a lot of pride at stake and personal honours to try and uphold. The final opportunity for many riders to star strongly and with a lot less thinking about the title race, now that has been wrapped up by Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team).

RACING FOR THE FINAL GLORY: Bulega vs Manzi one final time

Bulega may already have the Championship in the bag and he’s already got a graduation to WorldSBK penned for 2023, so his aim this weekend will be to continue making history and to continue making sure he leaves the class with his name firmly etched into the record books. For Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), it’s also a final chance for him to show that when he’s on form, he can beat his arch-rival. Manzi has second in the Championship already in his pocket, so he’s going for wins for his own pride. Neither have raced in WorldSSP at the track, although Bulega took a JuniorGP™ win in 2015 and a second place in Moto3™ a year later at the venue, whilst Manzi’s best is a P9 from 2020 in Moto2™. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) aims to get ahead of both in what is his final chance to be a rookie winner in 2023 at a circuit where he was fifth in Moto2™ last year. The German will also remain with the MV Agusta squad for 2024.

CLOSE BEHIND: Caricasulo clear of battle for fifth overall

Federico Caricasulo has fourth locked down and can’t progress further but he’s a double winner at Jerez in World Supersport, in 2017 and 2019 for Yamaha, so keep an eye on him this weekend. The battle all eyes will be on is fifth place, with the top four all sealed up already. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) currently occupies fifth place and has three top seven finishes in the last four races. Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) is eight points behind the Turkish star, with the Magny-Cours podium finisher eager to shine at a track he knows well.

Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) is another nine further behind but after a heroic double top ten at Portimao after Aragon’s hefty crash, he could feature in the podium fight and make gains; he also has his future sorted for 2024, moving to EAB Racing who switch to Ducati for next year. A podium last time out for Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) hauled him back into contention for fifth, 23 points back of Sofuoglu in eighth place; he’s tied on points with Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), who is fresh from a first WorldSSP podium last time out. Completing the top ten but not really in contention for the top five, Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) hasn’t had a podium all season; it’d be the first time since 2013 that he’s gone a full year without a rostrum if he doesn’t take one for the first time at Jerez.

NOTABLE NAMES WITH POINTS TO PROVE: van Straalen, Huertas and Oncu aim to shine

Eight points outside of the top ten overall, Dutchman Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) gears up for his final race with the team and seeks to return to the rostrum to put himself in the shop window. Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) will replace Nicolo Bulega at the Racing outfit for 2024 but hasn’t had a podium in 2023; in fact, he’s had four DNFs in the last four races, so he certainly has reason to have a strong weekend. Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) returned from injury at Magny-Cours and has had points in three out of the six races since. He’ll strive for a return to the top ten. Elsewhere, Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) and the returning Oli Bayliss (D34G Racing) will all aim to finish their season with a flourish.

HOUSEKEEPING: tidying up the final few details of 2023

As there’s no WorldSSP Challenge at this round, which was won by Tom Booth-Amos (ME Air Motozoo Racing), there’s a host of wildcards to watch out for. Yeray Ruiz (MDR Offitec Yamaha) and Miguel Pons (Zeus Motorsport) are back in WorldSSP action, as is Filippo Fuligni (Orelac Racing VerdNatura). Multiple Moto3™ Grand Prix winner Khairul Idham Pawi is a third rider at PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team), alongside Mackenzie and Adam Norrodin, whilst Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez (D34G Racing), the reigning WorldSSP300 runner-up, gets a taste of World Supersport. Gabriele Giannini (ProDina Kawasaki Racing), Simone Corsi (Altogo Racing Team), Emanuele Pusceddu (J.Angel by Edafos) and Melvin Van Der Voort (Team SWPN) round out a packed 31-rider field.

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