BULEGA OPENS UP: "When you have a fast teammate, you want to do more... I have no pressure"

Tuesday, 16 April 2024 10:32 GMT

From working with a Champion, being in a good place and more, the #11 revealed all in a special in-depth interview

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing - Ducati) has enjoyed a strong start to his MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship career, with one win and two podiums in his first six races. Ahead of the Pirelli Catalunya Round, the Italian sat down to talk in-depth about the start to his WorldSBK journey, how he’s in the “best moment” of his career after his WorldSSP title last year and the relationship he has with teammate Alvaro Bautista with the pair currently first and second in the standings, with Bulega leading.

THE BEST MOMENT: “I found a very good team, next year I will stay here”

The #11 first arrived in the WorldSBK paddock in 2022 when linking up with the Racing WorldSSP Team after a difficult two seasons in Moto2™. Although a win eluded him in 2022, he claimed the 2023 WorldSSP crown after an incredible season, winning 16 races out of 24 and taking 21 rostrums. That performance earned him a seat in the factory Racing – Ducati squad for his rookie WorldSBK campaign, and Bulega explained what that meant to him.

“I think now is the best moment because I’m in a very good team,” Bulega began. “I feel strong on the bike, and I feel that I can be competitive; for a rider, this is very important. They brought me from Moto2™ and I was in a bad moment. I didn’t enjoy riding bikes anymore, but they believed in me, and they gave me a second chance. They gave me a really good package and bike, they always believed in me and tried to give me the perfect bike every weekend.

“It was very important for me to join this team two years ago. We are growing up together. I found a very good team, next year I will stay here. I will try to, I don’t know about fighting for the Championship, stay in front and then we’ll see. I always say you have pressure when you’re in a bad position, like I was two years ago. That time, I had pressure. When you’re in a good team, you have a good bike and when results are coming, you don’t feel pressure.”

THE START IN WorldSBK: “Better than I expected… a real dream”

Bulega made his WorldSBK debut at Phillip Island, but it would’ve been difficult to tell it was his first round solely on results: pole in the Tissot Superpole session, a win in Race 1 and two more fifth places ensured he shone Down Under. With the interview taking place just ahead of the Catalunya Round and before he had arm pump surgery, ‘Bulegas’ reflected on his first weekend, the stunning victory and how more than what he achieved that weekend would’ve been difficult.

Bulega said: “It was a very good weekend for me, better than what I expected. Pre-season was very good but when you get to the first race, and you think I am fast and have a good feeling with the bike, when you have to do it, it’s always different. It was incredible and a real dream. More than this was difficult, my team did an incredible job all weekend. During the weekend, it was incredible to win my first race in WorldSBK in my first race, so it was very nice. To share these moments with my team was a great weekend.”

LEARNING FROM A CHAMPION: “I’m happy to share the garage with Bautista because he’s very fast”

Bulega’s promotion to WorldSBK means he’s racing alongside 2022 and 2023 WorldSBK Champion Alvaro Bautista this year, a challenge the Italian is relishing – not least because he’s able to learn from someone with two titles, 175 races, 60 wins and 93 podiums to his name. Both have won one race so far this season, although Bautista had secured more podiums than Bulega, and Bulega explained why he’s happy to be sharing a box with the #1.

Bulega said: “When you arrive in a new category, and your teammate is the World Champion, they’re always the first one you want to beat but not for me. If you ask every rider, it’s always the same. Alvaro is a very good guy. We’re in a very different situation. I’m happy to share the garage with him because he’s very fast. I like it when you have a teammate who is fast because you want to do more. It’s nice to have a two-time World Champion in the box. Phillip Island didn’t change anything. I won just one race, Alvaro is a two-time Champion, so I have to learn a lot from him.”

GOALS FOR 2024: “I already won a race so I would like to win some more…”

Bulega’s early goals for this season would’ve been to adapt, learn and get some good results along the way, but the first win coming in his first race changed how he’s looking at 2024. The 24-year-old discussed how he went from believing a top ten result as a rookie would’ve been a good result to now wanting more visits to the top step even if the process is more important to him at this point than the results.

“I think that, at the beginning of the season, if I was in the top ten as a rookie, it was a good result,” stated Bulega. “I already won a race so I would like to win some more. It’s too early to understand what I can do until the end of the season. I would like to stay in front in a lot of races and try to be on the podium. I don’t care too much about the final results because I’m only in my first year, so I want to enjoy every race. I have no pressure because it’s my first year. I just have to learn. If I can beat my rivals like in Australia it's nice but if I can’t, it’s not a problem, because it’s my first year.”

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