Starting from pole, Ten Kate Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team’s Stefano Manzi secured second in a red-flagged Race 2 in Australia, adding to Nicholas Spinelli’s (VFT Racing Yamaha) second-place finish in Race 1, to cap off a strong opening round of the 2023 FIM Supersport World Championship.
After a dramatic, rain-affected Race 1 that saw 21-year-old rookie Spinelli pull off a sensational ride to second after gambling on a full wet setup in the treacherous conditions on Saturday, more drama would come on Sunday.
The sun returned for Race 2, and right from the off, polesitter Manzi was determined to improve on his sixth in Race 1 and was involved in a superb three-way battle at the front of the race. Leading for long periods, it was a case of unfortunate timing that the red flag appeared again on Sunday to deny his chances of victory.
This time, it was not because of the weather, but the race was stopped with five laps still to go due to geese on the circuit, unfortunately just as the fight at the front was heating up, leaving him agonisingly just 0.382s away from his second WorldSSP win. Despite this, after the first race weekend of the season, the 23-year-old Italian occupies second in the championship standings with 30 points.
Spinelli, who had shown exceptional talent and bravery to record his maiden WorldSSP podium in Race 1 in just his second appearance in the class, was battling in the top six on Sunday before a minor technical issue saw him forced to retire. Despite not scoring any points in Race 2, the Italian is fourth overall in the championship standings with the 20 points he secured on Saturday.
Manzi’s rookie teammate, Jorge Navarro, showed his class by following up his charge from 20th on the grid to ninth in the re-started Race 1 by finishing Race 2 in a strong sixth position. In the process, the Spanish rider collected 17 points on his WorldSSP debut to put him seventh overall in the standings.
Another rider to improve in the dry conditions on Sunday was GMT94’s Valentin Debise. The 31-year-old Frenchman produced a solid ride to eighth on Sunday to add to his 13th from Race 1, where his gamble on slick tyres in the changeable conditions did not pay off. Debise leaves Australia in 11th overall in the championship standings, with 11 points.
It was an encouraging start to their debut WorldSSP campaign for the Team Yamaha Thailand riders, with both of their rookies finishing in points-scoring positions in the two races. Anupab Sarmoon stole the headlines with his stunning ride to eighth in the wet on Saturday before following this up with another strong ride in Race 2 to 14th.
His teammate Apiwath Wongthananon followed up his 15th-placed finish in Race 1 with another solid ride to finish just ahead of Sarmoon on Sunday in 13th. These results mean Sarmoon is 12th (10 points) and Wongthananon 19th (4 points) heading into the second round.
It was a challenging start to the season for Evan Bros Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team’s Andrea Mantovani as the 28-year-old Italian, unfortunately, crashed out of both races after qualifying in 14th.
Next up for the FIM Supersport World Championship is Round 2 at the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit in Indonesia on the 3rd-5th of March.
Stefano Manzi – P2 – Race 2
Ten Kate Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team
“It was a good race, and I was enjoying fighting for the win. I was able to lead some laps, but unfortunately, the red flag came a couple of laps before the end, which meant I finished second. It’s good to finish on the podium, but of course, I’m a little bit disappointed. I think we could have done more. I can’t say that I would have won, but I definitely would have tried. Now we look towards next weekend as we will have another round. We have worked hard over the past week, and I’m looking forward to continue in Indonesia.”
Nicholas Spinelli – P2 – Race 1
VFT Racing Yamaha
“It was a very difficult race because the conditions were constantly changing, and we were undecided about which tyre to use. In the end, we opted for the wets, and in my opinion, it was the best choice. In the middle of the race, the track started to dry out, and riders on the intermediate tyres started to recover a bit, but towards the end of the race, the rain returned, and the wet tyres paid off. I tried to stay calm because it was my first time in the wet on the Yamaha R6, and I was a bit cautious during the first laps. Then, as my feeling with the bike increased, I started to push more and more. Towards the end, I was closing fast and was less than a second from the first, but we ran out of laps. However, finishing second on debut is a remarkable feeling. Thank you to everyone in the team and Yamaha for their faith in me and for all of their hard work.”