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SBK, Bulega: "I'm not as arrogant as people think, Bagnaia owes me his life"

THE INTERVIEW - Nicolò opened his heart: "I understand the idea that many people have of me. The truth is that I'm a closed person. I find it hard to trust those I don't know. Maybe, if I had made different choices, I could've also been in the MotoGP with Pecco and Enea, but now I'm in the SBK, and I'm not as listless as before. Marquez? I wish I had him as a partner."

SBK: Bulega:

It's his race, and he knows it! He grew up there, in Misano, grinding out thousands and thousands of kilometers over time. And, as if that weren't enough, he got there riding the red bike: the one he dreamed of last year.

Nicolò Bulega is ready for the Riviera round and, on his Ducati V4, he wants to play a starring role in one of the most anticipated rounds of the entire season. We had a long chat with him about his past and, of course, what he's experiencing now. We also talked about the track and about who Nicolò is: that guy born on October 16th, 24 years ago, in Montecchio Emilia.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't think I'd start the season offso well," he began. "We got off on the right foot, and I can't wait for the race weekend in Misano. In fact, I'm very curious about the support I'll have there, and I hope it's going be a great weekend for everyone. What can I say. Misano is a special round. There's the passion of the entire Riviera, and I think it's the perfect setting to have fun all together. Obviously there's anticipation. I understand that, and I hope to have a great weekend for everyone who comes."

Nicolò, let's take a step back to Phillip Island. What has changed since that Saturday?
"The Phillip Island win gave me more confidence in facing the following races, because you let loose and forget what's bothering you. In some ways, it's a good thing while, in others, not so much because, the moment you get a second place like in Barcelona in Race 1, then you get pissed off, and think you did poorly. Instead it's not quite like that."

Speaking of the Superbike. How's your experience in this paddock?
"When I came here, I found a relaxed and more professional atmosphere than in the Moto2. You have more time to figure things out, and the people you find in the paddock are much calmer, and it's a pleasure to stop with people and exchange a few words. I'm happy because this is a really great atmosphere."

As soon as  you arrived in the Superbike, Serafino Foti's first piece of advice was to smile a little more.
"Exactly. And I told him, 'when I have reason to smile, I'll smile more.' The fact is that, in the Moto2, I couldn't go as fast as I wanted to, and everything around me was off. Like I said on several occasions, everything became more complicated, even going out for a simple pizza."

Did you think it depended on you, or were you certain of your qualities?
"I still felt strong, but I understood that I didn't have that package and those people around me who could bring out what I had inside. Then, when I came to this paddock, I rediscovered that desire to ride bikes that I had lost before, and now I feel as strong as I did when I started the World Championship. All, of course, thanks to the support from the team and Aruba."

From that past, going back to Moto2 or before, what would you change?
"I honestly don't know. One thing I often tell myself, though, is to trust myself a bit more and listen less to someone from the outside. I'll treasure this for the future."

Last year, talking with Tardozzi, he told me that he's always been impressed by your talent.
"Tardozzi is a person I respect, and I'm grateful to him for all said about me. He even once told me, 'Look, the riders we have now in the MotoGP are the same ones you were battling  with until recently.' With you don't get things done with ifs and buts, though, because I'm here in the SBK and they're in the MotoGP."

Do you sometimes think you could've been there with them?
"Maybe. Because, in the end, they're the same ones I used to race with, precisely like Tardozzi said. Maybe I had to trust myself and my head more. But I can't go back now. I can only think of the present, and I'm happy to be here with the entire Aruba family by my side."

Do you still hear from Valentino?
"Yes, he wrote to me after Australia and also after Barcelona. Despite my leaving the VR46, we still keep in touch, but without exchanging too many messages. I'm glad to have kept in touch with him. I don't see him that much, because I guess he's busy with his schedule."

Nicolò, let's talk about you, and get straight to the point. From the outside, many people think you're a guy who's full of himself. What can you tell us about that?
"I'm a person who can't fake it. I think I'm transparent and spontaneous. If a person is  gets my nerves, I let them know right away. Same thing the other way around. I know I often come across as obnoxious, but this isn't dictated by the fact that I want to walk around with my chest puffed out. Sometimes, this image of me leaks out simply because I'm closed with people I don't know, and don't tend to trust people. The fact is that, by doing so, I come off as being arrogant, but I'm not. In the end, I chat and joke around with no problem with those I know."

Last year, many people thought you weren't ready for the Ducati factory because of the pressure.
"When there was doubt about whether to land in the factory team or Go Eleven, I remember there was the question of pressure. This surprised me, because I never minded the pressure talk, since the only thing I wanted was the factory team. I think the pressure is more on those riders who aren't doing well because, when you find yourself in a non-competitive team, that always increases, while you have so many certainties on a factory team."

If they were to put Marquez on your team one day, how would you react?
"I wish. I'd learn a lot of things."

Speaking, instead, of the MotoGP. What can you tell us about Pecco and Enea? After all, as you said in the interview with Migno, Bagnaia owes you his life.
"Exactly. I saved Pecco's life, because I had a car with a door that didn't close properly on the passenger side and he was almost flying out. I, however, kept him in by force," he said smiling. "And then there was that time when with, the ATV, we got lost in the desert in Qatar, and they came to pick us up," he recalled, smiling again. "I'll tell you some other backstory later," he said, jokingly. "That said, I hang out with Enea a  bit more than with Bagnaia. In fact, we often end up eating together. He's a strong and very talented rider, but maybe he needs to have everything perfect around him to do his best. Somewhat like me in some ways."

Bagnaia, on the other hand?
"He and I hang out with him less, but we're always on very good terms. I play a lot of Call Of Duty with Pecco on the Play Station."

Who's the best at it?
"Me. At least I can beat him there."

Do you speak with Dall'Igna often?
"I speak with Gigi often. Sometimes I pass by his office. He seems like a person with clear ideas. In fact, he always asks you precise questions, and you have to answer accordingly. He listens to you, and then immediately asks the next question without spending too much time talking."


Translated by Leila Myftija

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