Nicolo Bulega: ‘On the straight I was like a chopper, rear tyre was finished’

Nicolo Bulega takes pride in being the only rider able to follow Alvaro Bautista in Race 2 of the Catalunya WorldSBK round.

Nicolo Bulega, Catalunya WorldSBK Race1, 23 March
Nicolo Bulega, Catalunya WorldSBK Race1, 23 March

After rear tyre issues cost him victory in Race 1, WorldSBK rookie Nicolo Bulega again had to settle for second in Race 2 as Alvaro Bautista got his first win of 2024.

Bulega led early on before being overtaken by Bautista around mid-race distance.

It was a similar story in Race 1 as Bulega led from Toprak Razgatlioglu before running into severe tyre degradation.

The Italian lost the lead on the final lap and admitted he felt like ‘a chopper’ as struggled to generate acceleration coming onto the start-finish straight.

Bulega said: “In the straight, I was like a chopper because the rear tyre was finished! I’m happy but not happy; first until the last lap… I didn’t have a lot of experience because this was my first long race, where I had to manage tyres.

“Until the last lap, I was doing an incredible job. I chose the new 900 rear tyre; the track temperature was high so maybe the SCX was a better choice but if the race finished one lap less, my choice would be the best.

“I didn’t know it was Toprak, I just knew someone was coming. With two laps to go, I knew I had to do something because I was in a bad situation and was struggling a lot.

“Then, on the last lap, I heard Toprak from behind and when he overtook me, it was like me but seven or eight laps before.

“I have to be happy for second in my first full race… I learnt something.”

In Sunday’ double-header Bulega claimed P4 in the Superpole Race and a second runner-up result in Race 2, leaving the Italian happy as he was the only rider able to give Bautista a stern challenge.

Bulega stayed with Bautista until the end of the race as he began to run into tyre issues again.

However, this time it was the front tyre which was causing him problems.

Bulega added: “The last laps I was starting to feel a drop but not from the rear. Yesterday the rear tyre dropped but today the front tyre.

“We have to check data because I don’t understand why we destroyed the rear tyre yesterday, but today the front.

“The last four or five laps I thought maybe I have to be happy with second because on the penultimate lap I almost crashed at turn 13.

“At that moment I said ‘okay, second is good’. Alvaro [Bautista] is always very fast in Barcelona and I was the only one that could follow him.”

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