Bulega takes maiden race win and checks out in Race 1 flag-to-flag

By February 24, 2024 WorldSBK

Bulega takes maiden race win and checks out in Race 1 flag-to-flag

WorldSBK By February 24, 2024

Nicolo Bulega [Aruba.it Racing – Ducati] was in a league of his own in the opening race of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. Leaving anyone to believe he has been a World Superbike rider for years, Bulega secures the first race win of the 2024 season by 2.2 seconds over Andrea Locatelli and Andrea Iannone.


The Italian, who secured Ducati their first World Supersport Championship, has further become the Italian to secure Ducati’s first race win of the 2024 season, all on his World Superbike Championship debut. To top it off, Bulega became the first reigning WorldSSP Champion to win on their World Superbike debut race.


But, let’s go from the start.


Following the Official Test that took place at the start of this week at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, it was later announced mid-week that both races would be a flag-to-flag due to tyre wear. This meant that all riders had to complete a mandatory pit stop between laps 9 and 11, with a minimum pit intervention time of 63 seconds.


All riders started Race 1 on the Pirelli SC1 front and rear, except for Andrea Locatelli [Pata Prometeon Yamaha WorldSBK], Toprak Razgatlioglu [ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team], Phillipp Oettl [GMT94 Yamaha] and Scott Redding [Bonovo Action BMW] who chose to start with an SC1 rear, SC2 front combination.


When the lights went out for the first time of 2024 in World Superbikes, it was rookie Andrea Iannone [Team GoEleven] who led the way, in an impressive holeshot considering it has been over four years since the Italian rider last raced.


Trailing close behind off the start was Alex Lowes [Kawasaki Racing Team], Alvaro Bautista [Aruba.it Racing – Ducati]. Nicolo Bulega didn’t have the greatest of debut starts, finding himself back down in 5th position by Turn 1.


It wasn’t the greatest start for reigning World Champion Alvaro Bautista, who was bundled out of the way by newcomer Sam Lowes [ELF Marc VDS Racing Team] on Lap 3, relegating Bautista down to 10th position at the start of Lap 4.


But Bautista’s run of bad luck didn’t stop there when his Ducati Panigale V4R came tumbling down at MG on the same lap, the same place that Remy Gardner of GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team’s podium hopes came crashing down the lap prior.


Unlike Gardner, who was unable to rejoin resulting in a DNF for Race 1, Bautista was able to remount his bike and continue the race.


While there was chaos further back, the front charge was still being dominated by Iannone, however there was another rookie in the field who was eager to seal his first World Superbike win on his debut, and the rookie did exactly that from Lap 7.


Lap 9 got underway and the pit lane opened for riders to start pulling in for their mandatory pit stop. By the third sector, Bulega entered the pits first with a 0.7 second lead on Iannone, followed by the ensuing pack of Alex Lowes and Toprak Razgatlioglu; meaning the top 4 riders all entered the pits at the first opportunity.


A little further back, Jonathan Rea also pitted at the end of Lap 9, followed by Michael Ruben Rinaldi. All the while, Andrea Locatelli decided to remain on circuit, stretching his time right to the final available lap, unlike his teammate Jonathan Rea, who’s race strategy was to enter pit lane from his first opportunity.


Back at the front, Bulega went into the pits with a 0.7 second lead behind Lowes, but finished his first flying lap around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit with a 2.2 second lead ahead of Lowes.


While Bulega was running away at the front, it was a strong fight for the remaining podium positions between Andrea Iannone, Alex Lowes, Toprak Razgatlioglu and a fast catching Andrea Locatelli. However, Razgatlioglu was handed a 1.225 second penalty for not reaching the minimum pit stop time intervention.


Locatelli was a man on the charge to put in an impressive Lap 18, after a big mistake from Andrea Iannone costing him a second and a half in the second sector, unable to stop his Ducati Panigale V4R in time for Miller Corner.


When the chequered flag came out, it was the rookie Nicolo Bulega who crossed the line first, setting a new Race lap record of a 1:28.564, followed by Andrea Locatelli and Andrea Iannone. Alex Lowes finished the race in fourth, followed by Toprak Razgatlioglu after his time penalty was added onto his final race time.


Written by: Tayla Relph
Images by: Russell Colvin
Don’t miss a second of the action from the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round – 23 – 25th February 2024.
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