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SBK, Bulega: "Bautista could be in the top 5 if he returned to MotoGP"

INTERVIEW - “I think Alvaro is the best rider on the best bike and I was impressed by how he rode in Barcelona. Before trying the Ducati V4, I asked Bastianini for advice. Moto2 style could help me for Superbike"

SBK: Bulega:

Leader of the championship after the first two rounds, Nicolò Bulega is looking forward to the Assen Round with confidence, also on the strength of the two tests carried out in these weeks of breaks between the trip to Mandalika and the first European round of the Supersport World Championship.

“We did two tests: one with the SBK in Jerez and one with the SSP in Barcelona and I did well in both, so I'm very happy. I got on well with both the V4 and my usual V2, so it was also important for me to understand whether I could have gotten as comfortable with the Superbike as with the V2 and what character the bike has, because it's still a Ducati but they're two completely different things, because one has 100 hp more and it's not easy to manage - the Romagna-born rider told us - I got on well and in the end I think I brought from Moto2 a riding style which is fairly 'big bike'. I immediately found myself doing the trick quite well to get it out of the corners, because I already had it from Moto2, so the Jerez test went well. Also in Barcelona with my V2 we went very well. I took six tenths off the best lap I did at the weekend last year, so we were good, but still not as strong as Aegerter was last year. He made the difference and it seems to me that in qualifying he was 1” quicker than second. He was doing another sport in Barcelona, but we improved compared to last year, so it went well there too”.

Now that we're back in Europe, is the Ducati the bike to beat?

“I certainly like Assen a lot, because it's one of my favourite tracks, so I hope I can have a good weekend. It will be necessary to understand a bit what the weather will be like, because here it is a bit of an unknown factor. I think it will be a track where we will be competitive, but it won't just be our bike that will be competitive, the others will be too. I think Manzi and Yamaha could also be very competitive, and among other things they also did the tests here. It's hard to say who could be the candidate for victory, because now there's a very similar level between the top 3 or 4 in Supersport."

You had already tested the Superbike last year at Misano.

“Last year I did just 10 or 15 laps on used tyres. It was more of a prize than anything else. This was a slightly more serious test, in which we lapped a bit to get me more confident."

What’s it like jumping from the V2 to the V4?

"It is huge. Already when you sit on it you understand that it's something else, because it's bigger, more spacious, and there are more buttons to press. Then when you ride it, it goes much faster. It has a lot more electronics, which work very well, and it also brakes much better than the SSP. There are a lot of things. It won't be at MotoGP level, I think it's a step down, but it's still a nice little toy."

What was the first thing you said to yourself?

“The first laps I wasn't comfortable, because as it was totally different from mine, I felt bad. After the first 10 laps I was already done, I didn't have any more because my riding position was bad. Then we made some changes in terms of ergonomics and it was something else: I started riding it like I ride the Supersport, clearly with a different riding style because it requires it, but I was already able to ride it quite well".

Coming from Moto2 do you feel easier to get on the Panigale V4?

"Since Moto2 has no controls or anything and the tires have little grip, in the transition from Moto3 to Moto2 you learn a style that leads the rider to do MotoGP and SBK-type tricks, because you have a little power to unleash on the ground and, since you have no grip, you tend to lift the bike to try to make more use of the acceleration. With the SSP, which doesn't have all that power, you take a step back in riding style because it's more like Moto3, where you need to carry some cornering speed. SBK is even more than Moto2, it's two steps ahead of Supersport, so I had to remember how I rode the Moto2 bike, that is, moving more with my body, trying to edge more, brake hard, stop a bit in the centre of the corner, and try to come out as fast as possible".

Would you feel ready for the move to Superbike?

“It's still a bit early, because we've only done two rounds. In my opinion it will depend a lot on how I go this year, but in my opinion, it is right that someone who goes fast in the first category makes the leap to the next one, because it is like this everywhere: If you go fast in Moto3, you do Moto2. If one goes fast in SSP600, it's only right that one goes to SBK".

What do you think of the riders of your generation, who have almost all ended up in the benchmark category of their respective championship?

"There are a lot of riders from my generation who have managed to get to important categories such as MotoGP or SBK. MotoGP is the best and fewer riders have arrived there, but if I now took the MotoGP standings, probably out of 20 riders I have raced against 15 because this has been my life path. I raced against Quartararo, Pecco, Bastianini, Binder, Alex Marquez... 5 like that come to mind, but I probably raced against almost all of them. I've raced with a generation of very strong riders, but honestly, I don't think much of the others. I think a lot about doing my thing, doing my best and right now I'm working hard because I know I have a good chance and I'm trying to make the most of it 100%”.

Is there anyone you have bonded with the most?

“Me, Enea and Tatsu made a good group. It's nice because we don't feel like rivals, since everyone is in his category, so we're all friends. We understand each other because we are all riders, and we are fine. We made a good group."

Could someone like Bastianini give you some advice on how to ride the V4?

“For sure he could give me some advice as he is someone who uses a more powerful bike, in the sense that a MotoGP bike is ridden more like an SBK than to an SSP. In fact, before the test in Jerez I sent him a message to ask him for some big bike advice in Jerez. He told me two or three things that I already knew, but at least he gave me confirmation. In the end, he too has his work cut out for him, plus they are two bikes that are not comparable. Even if the riding style is similar, the MotoGP bike has different tyres, different brakes, a lowering device... It has many things".

Do you think Bautista's style is unique to the Panigale V4?

"No. I think the Panigale V4 is an excellent bike, because Redding was also strong on it. For sure he is the one who, for the moment, understands it best and because of his riding style he is a bike-rider combination that has probably never existed in Superbike. I saw him lap the track in Barcelona and I was impressed by how he did Turn 3. He went completely sideways, he made it turn in the last part with the rear, then he was half a meter tighter than all the others and opened up a quarter of an hour before. This doesn't just depend on the bike, because the bike does it if you make it do it. I think Alvaro is probably the best rider on the best bike right now."

Do you think it's just Bautista, or could another MotoGP rider do the same?

“My idea is that if Alvaro went to the MotoGP right now with a good bike, like the factory Ducati, after a few tests, he'd be a rider who could again be in the top five, because he's almost 40 years old but gives gas and go strong”.

Have any of your former rivals written to congratulate you after the one-two finish in Australia?

“Pecco complimented me saying that I deserved it after so much ‘crap I ate', that he was happy for me and to tell me to stay focused. Clearly Enea, we are friends, Antonelli, Migno. Vale too. Bez no, but this winter we met up to do a few outings on the snow. I'm on good terms with everyone."


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