OUSTANDING Bulega on historic debut WorldSBK win: "Maybe it’s the best day of my life"

It was a day to remember for Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) as he enjoyed his first race day as a factory Ducati rider in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. Starting from pole position, it was a busy race for the #11 after dropping back in the early stages but fought through to take a sensational debut win in the class, despite playing down any chance of his pre-season testing pace being converted in the opening races of the season.

STORY OF SATURDAY: the #11 in P1 for most of it

It’s not often that someone takes pole position in the last World Supersport race of the season and then, when graduating WorldSBK, qualifies on pole for that too. In fact, it’s so rare that it had never happened – that was until a sensational debut by Nicolo Bulega saw him rocket to pole position in Tissot Superpole with a 1’27.916. It was the first-ever 1’27 for WorldSBK at Phillip Island and the first rookie debut pole position since Ben Spies in 2009.

Come the race itself, ‘Bulegas’ was squeezed by compatriot and fellow rookie Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) off the line, with the #29 taking the lead at Doohan’s for the first time, showing no signs of rustiness after four years away from the races. However, before the round of pitstops and fighting back through from fifth in a calm manner with bold moves, reigning WorldSSP Champion Bulega had hit the front and was the first to blink to come into the pits. Getting it timed to absolute perfection in terms of the pit intervention time, he pulled a gap and from that moment, went unchallenged. He came down across the stripe for the final time to take victory in one of the most formidable starts to a World Superbike season ever.

“It’s something special that I’ll never forget” – the dream comes true

Emotion was clear for all to see as the dream had been achieved, with Bulega saying: “Maybe it’s the best day of my life! It’s difficult to already believe it but it is something incredible; I was dreaming about this for many months but now it’s reality. I took pole position, I won my first race and got the lap record. It’s something special that I’ll never forget.”

THE MILESTONES: Bulega breaks records

Bulega set numerous records on his first race day as a WorldSBK rider – and now, WorldSBK winner. He leads the Championship for the first time after becoming just the third Italian to win at Phillip Island after Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri in 2012 and 2018 respectively. He’s also the fifth rider to win their first race with Ducati; Doug Polen, John Kocinski, Anthony Gobert and Alvaro Bautista all achieved it before.

In terms of being a winner in WorldSSP and WorldSBK, the 24-year-old is the 11th rider to win in both. He is also only the second rider in history to win a WorldSSP Championship and then lead a WorldSBK Championship; in Imola 2004, Chris Vermeulen was briefly ahead but he is the only one to have done it. It’s also another win for the #11 at Phillip Island, after the factory Ducati of Troy Corser in 1999’s epic Race 2 fight with teammate Carl Fogarty.

“I STARTED TO CRY” – the raw emotions

When asked about what his first thoughts were when he came down the straight and crossed the line, the emotions let loose: “I started to cry a little bit and then, there were good emotions as I saw all my guys on the finish line and all my guys with a big, incredible smile. It was so nice for me. It’s incredible because this team is like my second family and they always believed in me. When I came here from Moto2™, I was in a bad moment but they kept believing. This is my third year with them and we started in a very good way. I’ll try to continue giving them a lot of smiles. I’m ready for my first Tissot Superpole Race and I’ll try to do my best.”

BAUTISTA ON HIS NEW TEAMMATE: “It’s nice to have him as a teammate; a good motivation”

Usually the one stealing the show at Ducati, Alvaro Bautista could only manage 15th after a crash in his first race of 2024 but was happy for his stablemate’s debut win: “It’s not easy; when I won in 2019, it was a real rookie race! I didn’t know the tyres, Championship or the bike. At least he won last year with the Pirellis and this is his third year with them and also, he knows Ducati, as the bike, even in WorldSSP, has a similar concept. It’s not easy, especially this season as there are a lot of riders that can win the race. Congratulations to him and it’s nice to have him as a teammate as it’s a good motivation and good rider to learn from every race.”

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Source: WorldSBK.com

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