THE PENDULUM SWINGS AGAIN: Bulega halts Manzi’s momentum with Race 1 victory

Saturday, 29 July 2023 14:22 GMT

Nicolo Bulega added five more points to his Championship lead as he beat rival Stefano Manzi in the Czech Republic

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) extended his FIM Supersport World Championship lead with a commanding Race 1 victory at the Autodrom Most while Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) took second after a hard-fought battle. It means Bulega’s lead has stretched out to 46 points over Manzi after the opening Acerbis Czech Round battle in a red-flagged race following a Turn 1, Lap 1 incident at the start.

DRAMA FROM THE START: Bulega wins red-flagged Race 1

The race was red flagged on the opening lap after fluid was left on the track from Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) after he crashed at the Turn 1-2 chicane. It came after Turn 1 proved to be a pinch point with Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) aiming to gain positions, with several riders having to take to the run-off area to take avoiding action as riders slowed up to avoid any potential incidents directly ahead.

The race was restarted over a 12-lap distance, shortened from the original 19. Bulega got away well while title rival Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) surged to P2 at Turn 1, before dropping behind Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) at Turn 1 on Lap 2. However, he was soon promoted back up to second when the Ducati rider crashed out at Turn 7 with Montella not taking any further part in the race.

Although his target was set firmly on Bulega, the #62 was unable to close the gap on his title rival as he looked to fend off Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), with the #11 pulling out a gap of over 2.6s at the end of Lap 4 over Sofuoglu who’d overtaken Manzi. The Italian responded at Turn 1 a lap later. At the start of Lap 7, Sofuoglu overtook the Yamaha into Turn 1 while Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) attempted to pass him but ran wide through the chicane; dropping behind De Rosa and into P5. Huertas’ off-track excursion was placed under investigation by the FIM Stewards and given a Long Lap Penalty for not losing more than one second in Sector 1.

Manzi was able to start pulling away from De Rosa and Sofuoglu behind him as the pair duelled it out for the final podium place. De Rosa led into the final lap after the #54 ran wide at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap although he closed the gap on the final lap. Sofuoglu set a personal best lap on the final lap as he overtook De Rosa at Turn 20 for third, demoting the Italian to fourth.

Bulega claimed his ninth win in WorldSSP, putting him level with 2017 Champion Mahias, while it was also his 22nd podium to put him level with Sebastien Charpentier at 10th in the all-time last. Second was Manzi’s 15th podium and his tenth of the season while Barcelona winner Sofuoglu secured his third rostrum visit.

PENALTY DROPS HUERTAS BACK: strong race ends in P5

Huertas finished fifth after taking his Long Lap Penalty almost immediately as it was given to him, although he didn’t lose position as he had a big margin to the riders behind him. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) took sixth, two seconds away from the 2021 WorldSSP300 Champion, while Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) was seventh and only three tenths away from the German rookie. Five of the six manufacturers competing on a full-time basis in 2023 finished in the top seven in Race 1.

RUNNING WIDE: Caricasulo loses ground

Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) was eighth as he battled for seventh in a multiple-rider group. He crossed the line in ninth but a post-race one-place grid drop for Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) for exceeding track limits on the final lap at Turn 2. The Spaniard was therefore classified in ninth, ahead of Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) in tenth. Caricasulo lost time in the closing stages after he ran wide but was able to secure a top-ten finish.

IN THE POINTS: Booth-Amos extends Challenge lead, Kofler scores on debut

Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) was just two tenths away from a place in the top ten as he finished ahead of compatriot Andy Verdoia (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) in 12th. The youngest-ever WorldSSP victory was only 0.022s ahead of Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) in 13th. The Brit finished as the lead WorldSSP Challenge rider while he finished ahead of Mahias, who took to the restarted race after his crash, and Andreas Kofler (D34G Racing). Andreas takes the Kofler family bragging rights on Saturday as he beat brother and teammate Maximilian, with the older sibling missing out on points with 18th. Ondrej Vostatek (PTR Triumph) and Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) separated the two siblings.

HOUSEKEEPING: to note from WorldSSP Race 1

Luke Power (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) didn’t take to the restarted race while fellow Australian rider Tom Edwards (Yart-Yamaha WorldSSP Team) crashed out on Lap 6 at Turn 8. Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing WEBIKE Yamaha) went down at Turn 20 on Lap 7, while Alvaro Diaz (Arco Yart Yamaha WorldSSP) had a technical issue which forced him out of the race.

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

1. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team)

2. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +1.856s

3. Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +3.795s

4. Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) +3.980s

5. Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) +6.546s

6. Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) +8.536s

Fastest Lap: Nicolo Bulega, Ducati – 1’35.301s

Don’t miss WorldSSP Race 2 from 12:30 Local Time (GMT+2) using the WorldSBK VideoPass!