Nicolo Bulega has sealed the 2023 WorldSSP Championship title after reeling off the 14th win of a dominant campaign during the first race of the penultimate weekend at Portimao.
A fifth straight win for the Italian, a run of form that would break any hope of a late challenge from one of his rivals, Bulega held his nerve in the closing laps to ensure his coronation across the finish line.
Coming in his second season in the middleweight category, the ex-Moto2 rider’s success also marks a first title for Ducati with its Panigale V2, not to mention its championship since the category’s inaugural campaign in 1997 when it was known as a ‘World Series’ rather than a ratified FIM World Championship.
Though not as comprehensive as many of his victories this season, Bulega still had to grit his teeth at the beginning when a lacklustre start from pole position risked losing him the hole-shot into Turn 1.
However, a fast sweep from the outside was enough to get him back ahead of his last remaining rival, Stefano Manzi, for a lead he’d protect all the way to the flag.
He would encounter some opposition along the way with a charging Yari Montella hassling him at the mid-way stage of the race, but a technical issue for the Barni Spark Racing rider would give Bulega the breathing room he needed to complete the decisive win.
The only rider other than Bulega to score multiple wins in WorldSSP so far this season, Manzi all but secured himself the runners-up spot in the series with his run to second place on the Ten Kate Yamaha, the Italian joined on the podium for the first time by team-mate Jorge Navarro.
Marcel Schroetter prevailed in a tussle with Valentin Debise to take fourth place, the duo chased across the line by Federico Caricasiulo, while Bahattin Sofuoglu made good gains from 14th on the grid to claim seventh on the second of the MV Agusta entries.
Despite having to serve a long-lap penalty for rather unceremoniously punting Tom Booth-Amos off his Kawasaki at Turn 3 with eight laps remaining, Raffaele de Rosa held on for eighth, ahead of top Triumph rider Niki Tuuli and Evan Bros Yamaha’s Lorenzo Dalla Porta.
Further back, John McPhee was in the points again on the D34G Ducati, the Scot coming home in 13th, while Booth-Amos remounted and continued to pick up the 15th and final point.
|2023 Portimao WorldSSP | Portimao | Race 1 Results | Round 11 of 12|
|1||Nicolo Bulega||🇮🇹||Aruba Racing||Ducati Panigale V2||18 Laps|
|2||Stefano Manzi||🇮🇹||Ten Kate Racing||Yamaha R6||+2.637|
|3||Jorge Navarro||🇪🇦||Ten Kate Racing||Yamaha R6||+6.521|
|4||Marcel Schroetter||🇩🇪||MV Agusta Reparto Corse||MV Agusta F3 800 RR||+14.090|
|5||Valentin Debise||🇨🇵||GMT94||Yamaha R6||+14.250|
|6||Federico Caricasulo||🇮🇹||Althea Racing||Ducati Panigale V2||+15.410|
|7||Bahattin Sofuoglu||🇹🇷||MV Agusta Reparto Corse||MV Agusta F3 800 RR||+20.949|
|8||Raffaele de Rosa||🇮🇹||Orelac Racing Verdnatura||Ducati Panigale V2||+22.986|
|9||Niki Tuuli||🇫🇮||PTR Racing||Triumph STR 765 RS||+25.683|
|10||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||🇮🇹||Evan Bros. Team||Yamaha R6||+28.865|
|11||Tom Edwards||🇦🇺||YART||Yamaha R6||+28.944|
|12||Ondrej Vostatek||🇵🇱||PTR Racing||Triumph STR 765 RS||+29.081|
|13||John McPhee||🇬🇧||D34G Racing||Ducati Panigale V2||+32.860|
|14||Can Oncu||🇹🇷||Puccetti Racing||Kawasaki ZX-6R||+37.565|
|15||Tom Booth-Amos||🇬🇧||Motozoo Racing||Kawasaki ZX-6R||+40.212|
|16||Yeray Ruiz||🇪🇦||MDR Offtec||Yamaha R6||+42.049|
|17||Anupab Sarmoon||🇹🇭||Yamaha Thailand Racing||Yamaha R6||+46.969|
|18||Luke Power||🇦🇺||Motozoo Racing||Kawasaki ZX-6R||+47.119|
|19||Max Kofler||🇦🇹||D34G Racing||Ducati Panigale V2||+47.208|
|20||Twan Smits||🇳🇱||Yamaha Thailand Racing||Yamaha R6||+47.371|
|21||Federico Fuligni||🇮🇹||Orelac Racing Verdnatura||Ducati Panigale V2||+47.576|
|22||Tarran Mackenzie||🇬🇧||Petronas MIE Racing||Honda CBR600RR||+45.763|
|23||Alvaro Diaz||🇪🇦||Arco YART||Yamaha R6||+48.060|
|24||Ibrahim Norrodin||🇲🇾||Petronas MIE Racing||Honda CBR600RR||+57.213|
|25||Yuta Okaya||🇯🇵||ProDina Racing||Kawasaki ZX-6R||+57.223|
|26||Maiki Abe||🇯🇵||VFT Racing||Yamaha R6||+1m >|
|DNF||Andrea Migno||🇮🇹||Petronas MIE Racing||Honda CBR600RR|
|DNF||Glenn van Straalen||🇳🇱||EAB Racing||Yamaha R6|
|DNF||Leonardo Taccini||🇮🇹||Vince64 by Puccetti||Kawasaki ZX-6R|
|DNF||Yari Montella||🇮🇹||Barni Spark Racing||Ducati Panigale V2|
|DNF||Adrian Huertas||🇪🇦||MTM Racing||Kawasaki ZX-6R|
|W||Nicholas Spinelli||🇮🇹||VFT Racing||Yamaha R6|