PREVIEW: new-look WorldSSP goes Down Under to start 2023… and it’s a lottery

Wednesday, 22 February 2023 10:02 GMT

22 riders will start their 2023 campaigns in style at Phillip Island as the new season gets underway following two days of testing in Australia

The 2023 FIM Supersport World Championship gets underway at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round, with Australia hosting the season-opener for the first time since 2020. Last year’s top two have moved and there are plenty of changes up and down the grid that could make the fight for the 2023 title a wide-open affair, but all eyes will be on this weekend, as riders aim to start their campaigns in the best way. Two days of testing at Phillip Island have given an idea of what to expect but the usual testing caveats still apply, despite it being at the same venue, with an unpredictable round ready to start the 2023 season.

THE ITALIAN JOB: strong in testing, strong in the round?

Heading into the Australian Round, testing has shown a handful of Italian riders to be at the front of the field. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team) has been on top throughout testing at Jerez, Portimao and Phillip Island but he has been closely followed by Stefano Manzi, following his switch from Triumph to Ten Kate Racing Yamaha. Could the pair be battling for victory in Australia? In the Official Test at Phillip Island, Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team) showed strong pace and, at the venue he won at in 2022, will be hoping to repeat that success. Another rider who has shown strong pace throughout the winter is Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) and he was in the mix for victories in 2022 in Australia. With two poles at Phillip Island and three podiums in six races to his name at the track, ‘Carica’ is one to watch this weekend and perhaps an early favourite.

THE CHASING PACK: could a home hero spring a surprise?

After switching teams for the 2023 season, Oli Bayliss (D34G Racing) has been showing some quick times in testing at Phillip Island as he goes in search of his first WorldSSP podium. He remains on the Ducati Panigale V2 for his second WorldSSP campaign, but with a different team, and will be hoping to take a first rostrum visit this season. His crew chief is Giovanni Crupi for 2023, vastly experienced – even back when father, Troy, was racing! Kawasaki duo Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) both displayed rapid pace during the Official Test and, as both go in search of a first WorldSSP victory, they’ll hope Australia is the place for that.

ROOKIES HOPING FOR AN INSTANT IMPACT: ten riders set for WorldSSP debut

With the Australian Round opening the season, ten riders will make their first appearance in WorldSSP at Phillip Island headlined by Honda’s return to the Championship. Tarran Mackenzie (MIE-MS Racing Honda Team) and Adam Norrodin lead Honda’s charge for their return but have endured a troubled pre-season campaign. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) is a big-name rookie after his switch from Moto2™; the Spanish rider still aiming for full fitness after suffering injuries at Phillip Island last year. Another Yamaha debutant comes in the form of Andrea Mantovani (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team) whilst Harry Truelove (Dynavolt Triumph), Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing Yamaha) and John McPhee (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) will also start their rookie campaigns in Australia. Yamaha Thailand Racing Team’s Apiwath Wongthananon and Anupab Sarmoon also make their debuts this season on the Yamaha YZF R6 machine, as Thai representation returns to World Supersport.

PODIUM POTENTIAL: aiming for a rostrum visit in Australia

With the start of a new season comes high hope for every rider up and down the grid and all 22 riders taking part in the Australian Round will be aiming high as the season gets underway. Niki Tuuli (Dynavolt Triumph) returns to the PTR squad for 2023 where he raced with Honda previously and, having won a race with MV Agusta last year, will be aiming to repeat that in 2023. His former teammate, Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) raced in WorldSSP last year, competing in the WorldSSP Challenge, but will make his Phillip Island debut this year. The Turkish star was competing consistently in the top ten at the end of last season and a return to that form at a new track will put him in good stead for 2023. Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) and Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) were both podium contenders in 2022 and want to add to their tally, whereas Valentin Debise (GMT94 Yamaha) prepares for his first full-time WorldSSP campaign since 2012, although he’s raced for GMT94 Yamaha in the past few seasons as a replacement rider.

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