Rookie Bulega was able to go half-a-second clear of his rivals in FP2, but he was just 0.040s quicker than Caricasulo in the combined classification
The FIM Supersport World Championship action at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is shaping up to be a season-ending classic with just 0.040s separating the top two in the combined classification ahead of the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it WorldSSP Team) topped the times ahead of Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing) with little to separate the pair after Friday’s two 45-minute Free Practice sessions.
A CLASSIC ON THE CARDS? Little to separate the front of the field…
With WorldSSP returning to Australia for the first time since 2020, and with plenty of changes to the grid since then, it appears there could be a classic weekend in store. Bulega posted a time of 1’34.027s to top Friday afternoon’s Free Practice 2 session and he was the only rider who was able to dip below Caricasulo’s effort from FP1; the Italian posted a 1’34.067s in the morning session to strike first. Bulega’s fastest lap came in a final three-lap stint with his best lap on the second lap of his third run in the session. Caricasulo was one of five riders who did not improve their lap time between FP1 and FP2, with the Italian down in tenth in the second session. They were around four tenths clear of double Champion Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) with the Swiss rider surging up the order in the closing stages to take third in the combined classification, and second in FP2, with a 1’34.458s.
SURPRISES IN STORE: a mixed-up order
Yari Montella (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) enjoyed a strong Friday in Australia as he spent a lot of time in FP2 at the top of the timesheets, although he was usurped by Bulega and Aegerter in the latter stages of the session as the Italian took third. He was ahead of Stefano Manzi (Dynavolt Triumph) in fifth place and Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in sixth, with four of the five manufacturers in 2022 represented inside the top six.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN: looking to join the lead battle
Championship runner-up Lorenzo Baldassarri (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) was seventh on his first visit to the circuit in WorldSSP, with the Italian leading two riders who will hope to continue their strong form from recent rounds. Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura WorldSSP), who was fighting for wins in Argentina, and Niki Tuuli (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), who won Race 1 in Indonesia, were eighth and ninth respectively; Tuuli’s best time was set in FP1. Home hero Oli Bayliss (BARNI Spark Racing Team) took tenth in the combined classification with a 1’34.823s after taking fourth in FP1, with the Australian rounding out the top ten.
HOUSEKEEPING: to note from Friday
GMT94 Yamaha duo Andy Verdoia and Jules Cluzel were 11th and 12th respectively, with neither rider improving their lap time from FP1. Verdoia was fourth in the first session as he posted a 1’34.859s while Cluzel set a 1’35.124s. Wildcard Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), making his debut ahead of a full-time switch to WorldSSP next year, was 13th while Marcel Brenner (VFT Racing) and Hannes Soomer (Dynavolt Triumph) rounded out the top 15.
Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) was 18th in the combined classification after he had a crash at Turn 8, with the 2021 WorldSSP300 Champion taken to the medical centre for a check-up following the crash. Huertas improved his time between FP1 and FP2, posting a best of 1’35.919s, but lost just under 10 minutes of track time following his crash.
The top six following WorldSSP Friday action, full results here:
1. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team) 1’34.027s
2. Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing) +0.040s
3. Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +0.431s
4. Yari Montella (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) +0.505s
5. Stefano Manzi (Dynavolt Triumph) +0.590s
6. Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) +0.646s
Watch Saturday’s WorldSSP action from 12:25 Local Time (GMT+11) using the WorldSBK VideoPass!