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Bulega closing on factory Ducati seat, Rinaldi on Honda's radar for 2024 WorldSBK?

Gold & Goose
Nicolo Bulega, Aruba.it Racing, Ducati Panigale V2, 2023 WorldSSP, Donington Park, action [credit - Gold & Goose]

Runaway WorldSSP Championship leader Nicolo Bulega looks to have leapt to the top of Aruba.it Ducati’s candidate list for the available seat alongside WorldSBK Champion Alvaro Bautista.

The Italian, a ex-Moto2 rider and former protege of Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Academy, has taken control of the WorldSSP class in 2023 with eight wins from 12 races, including a dominant double win last time out at Donington Park.

Bulega is in his second season of WorldSSP competition with Aruba.it Racing aboard the Ducati Panigale V2 and his recent run of form has begun shortening the odds on his candidacy to be promoted directly into the factory WorldSBK team for 2024.


Until recently Bulega seemed to be trailing in the betting amid a high quality list of other options, including incumbent Michael Ruben Rinaldi, privateer star Axel Bassani and former MotoGP rider Danilo Petrucci.

However, with Rinaldi’s form having stalled and Bassani understood to be staying with Motocorsa Racing for 2024, Bulega’s stock appears to have risen significantly.

Indeed, Ducati appears to be demonstrating as much by affording him multiple tests on its Ducati Panigale V4 R at Misano, with GPOne reporting he was lapping just half-a-second off Bautista’s Superpole-winning time at the Italian venue during a private outing this week.

Should Bulega get the nod to join Aruba.it Ducati, it remains to be seen where Rinaldi will land amid slimming options on the 2024 WorldSBK grid.

With BMW and Kawasaki confirming their factory line-ups, it leaves just Yamaha - which has a vacancy to fill Toprak Razgatlioglu’s seat but is expected to keep the selection internal - and Honda.

The HRC effort has shown flashes of performance this season, particularly with Xavi Vierge, who has made a noticeable step in performance. Officially speaking, team boss Leon Camier says he wants to retain both Vierge and Iker Lecuona, but there is growing talk the latter could beat a path back to MotoGP.

The Suzuka 8 Hours winner - who has deputised for Honda at two MotoGP rounds this season already - would be the manufacturer’s first choice should Alex Rins depart the LCR set-up. The Spaniard is increasingly linked to being poached by Yamaha, which is still deciding whether to retain Franco Morbidelli for the 2024 MotoGP season.

Should Lecuona leave, Rinaldi could be Honda’s pick having reportedly, according to Speedweek, ruled out an approach for Scott Redding.

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