PREVIEW: ball firmly in Bulega’s court as Ducati’s first WorldSSP title edges closer

The FIM Supersport World Championship is ready for a rollercoaster ride at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve just days after an incredible weekend at Aragon. The Pirelli Portuguese Round could be the round where Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) is crowned the 2023 Champion after Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) put the celebrations on ice – for a week, at least. He has a huge advantage of 85 points heading to Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula has served up his best chance yet of wrapping it up early.

TIME TO CELEBRATE? Bulega on the verge of the title

Bulega needs to leave Race 1 75 points ahead of his rival or 50 points after Race 2 to be crowned Champion this weekend, and he has an 85-point advantage heading into Portugal. Manzi is the only rider who can prevent the #11 winning the crown but will need everything to go his way over the next four races to have a chance of beating Bulega to the crown. Last year, Bulega took a best result of 10th at Portimao while Manzi was a winner, with Triumph, here last year. Perhaps 2023 has a new twist to come…

FIGHTING FOR FIFTH: advantage Sofuoglu but Debise closes in…

Rookie of the year winner Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) Is 56 points down on Manzi for second so could finish as runner-up, but he’s also 57 points clear of Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) and those positions, barring lots of drama, seem to be set in stone. ‘Carica’ is 51 points clear of Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) as he searches for a top-five Championship position, but he faces stiff competition from the in-form Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha); the pair are separated by 10 points. Behind them, Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph) is 11 points back, but the Finn will need to pass a medical check on Thursday following his high-speed crash at Aragon in Race 2.

LOOKING FOR A TOP TEN: 18 points separate five riders

The fight for the lower reaches of the top ten sees five riders separated by just 18 points. Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) leads the group on 129 points, with Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) nine behind after three consecutive top-nine finishes. Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) and Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) are all covered by just two points and all five in this battle will feel they should be higher up the standings. Portimao is a circuit Huertas won at in WorldSSP300 on his way to the title, while De Rosa has had two podiums here. It’ll be Navarro’s first time racing in WorldSSP at Portimao but he knows the track from Moto2™; he took third at the 2022 Portuguese Grand Prix, his last podium in the class.

CHALLENGE ON THE LINE? The final round of the WorldSSP Challenge awaits

Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) heads into the final WorldSSP Challenge round as the leader and in pole position for the title. Four riders remain in contention but, with 50 points on offer, the Brit will win if he loses less than 12 points or fewer to Tom Edwards (Yart-Yamaha WorldSSP Team), 19 or fewer to Federico Fuligni (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and 23 or fewer to Alvaro Diaz (Arco Yart Yamaha WorldSSP).

RIDER LINE-UP NEWS: wildcards look to impress in Portugal

Ibrahim Norrodin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) returns for a second WorldSSP outing with the team, although this time as a wildcard rather than a substitute rider. His brother, Adam, is on the provisional entry list for the same team but will need to pass a medical check to race. Yeray Ruiz (MDR Offitec Yamaha) is also back for the second week in a row as a wildcard. At D34G Racing, John McPhee replaces Oli Bayliss again after his points-scoring ride in Race 2 at Aragon. Apiwath Wongthananon will not ride but Yamaha Thailand Racing Team have not yet named his replacement. At Aragon, it was Hector Garzo, but he was declared unfit after Sunday morning Warm Up.

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