The second of our look at the rookies is the Sky Racing VR46 rider, Nicolo Bulega!
Bulega is a 19 (at the time of writing) year old Italian from Montecchio Emilia. He has been a part of the VR46 Riders Academy since it’s inception in 2014, which coincided with his move into the CEV Moto3 championship. In his debut season in the CEV he ended up 6th in the championship, taking two podium finishes on the way.
2015 was his real breakthrough year however, taking the CEV title on a KTM and ending the year with only one win. He did take a points finish in every single race, including 7 of those being podiums which meant he ended the year on 189 points. It was only 4 points ahead of Albert Arenas, but Arenas’ single retirement was the difference. In that same year, as reward for the fantastic season, Bulega got to make his World Championship debut at Valencia, finishing in an excellent 12th place.
In 2016, Bulega made the step up to the Moto3 World Championship full time with the Sky Racing VR46 team, finishing in a very creditable 7th place in the championship, but didn’t get Rookie Of The Year, as that went to Joan Mir. He got his first podium in Jerez, finishing 2nd having started from pole, and took another at Japan, despite not actually finishing on the podium, as Hiroki Ono found himself disqualified after the race.
In 2017, he remained with the same team but took a backwards step in terms of results, as he could only manage 12th place in the standings, and could only take a best position of 4th place in Sachsenring. It seemed as though his confidence was going through a bad patch this year.
2018 was the season the worse results came to a head, he looked a shell of the man who had taken a CEV title and podiums in his debut season and didn’t have a shred of confidence, which showed as he retired from the first four races of the season and only finished in the points on four occasions (Assen, Sachsenring, Aragon and Thailand) and then found himself injured and unable to finish the season, after injuring tendons in his hand falling through a glass table playing with his dog. Due to his mistake, he had to swallow the fact his replacement in Australia, Celestino Vietti did manage to get a podium in only his second appearance, while the best result Bulega managed all season was 7th in Thailand.
2019 is looking brighter for Bulega, with his large frame fitting the Kalex Moto2 bike much better, and he seems more confident already, flirting with he top of the timesheets at the Jerez test and looking more like the man we thought we would see in Moto3. Will the test form carry over into the season, or is his debut season one for finding his feet alongside his VR46 stablemates in the intermediate class after a year in the wilderness?
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