WorldSBK Phillip Island: Maiden WorldSSP win for Montella as Caricasulo crashes out| Christina Bulpett | WorldSBK
Puccetti Kawasaki’s Yari Montella claimed his first victory in WorldSSP with a dramatic battle at Phillip Island.
The first Kawasaki victor of the 2022 season came on the Italian’s maiden podium in the class. His race-long rival Federico Caricasulo crashing the Althea Ducati out of second on the final lap with Aruba Ducati’s Nicolo Bulega and Puccetti’s Can Öncü completing the podium celebrations in the final stages.
The rain returned for the first race of the weekend with Caricasulo launching the Panigale from pole ahead of Bulega and Montella while WorldSSP Champion Dominique Aegerter lined up in fourth.
18 laps in cold and wet conditions kicked off with Caricasulo taking the holeshot from the front row starters, Öncü and Lorenzo Baldassarri through on Aegerter with Montella up to second as the opening sector completed.
A lightning start from Tom Booth-Amos found the Brit into the top ten on the Motozoo Kawasaki from 19th on the grid while Öncü challenged for the final podium position as the opening lap came to conclusion. Niki Tuuli was immediately out on the MV Augusta with both Dynavolt Triumphs suffering issues as Hannes Soomer pulled one into the pits and Stefano Manzi trailed the other in last position.
Caricasulo held a half second lead as lap three began, Montella running over a second clear of Öncü in the runner up position with Aegerter now ahead of the battling Bulega and Baldassarri.
Montella began to challenge for the lead as lap four fired up, the Kawasaki less than a tenth off the wheels of the Panigale V2 ahead before he took charge on the run to the first corner. Caricasulo retuning the favour as the lap played out.
Raffaele de Rosa completed an Italian trio at the back of the top seven with five laps dispatched. A mistake for Aegerter brought the three into contention in the battle for fourth as Kallio’s Simon Jespersen, Booth-Amos and MTM’s Adrian Huertas completed the top ten.
The leading duo continued to bicker as the race unfolded, Öncü over a second adrift in a lonely third with Bulega through to fourth 1.2s behind. Oli Bayliss placed the Barni Ducati in 12th as he circulated in front of his home crowd while Marcel Schrotter dropped the MV Agusta at Miller corner on his WorldSSP debut. Booth-Amos gaining another position as he advanced to eighth with seven laps complete.
Montella was back in the lead as the pair pushed the pace out front. Öncü now over 2.5s adrift as Ondrej Vostatek became the next victim of turn four. Bulega up into podium contention for an all-Italian affair with ten laps to go.
The halfway stage found Montella comfortable in control with a near-second’s advantage over his Ducati rival. Bulega a further two back from Caricasulo with Öncü fading into the clutches of Aegerter and Baldassarri.
Caricasulo recovered to within half second with eighth to go before taking charge next time around. The Italian quick puling his own half second lead as the race counted down as Öncü attempted to recover with a fastest lap.
Four to go and Montella was back in control as he looked to claim Kawasaki’s first victory of the season. Caricasulo remaining in check with Bulega still two seconds behind. Baldassarri through on Aegerter for fifth with the remainder of the leading pack unchanged.
Caricasulo suffered successive moments as he pushed the Panigale to the front. Montella hitting back as the final lap fired up with the pair inseparable until the number 64 crashed out at turn four. The fallen Italian picking the bike up to run seventh in the climactic moments as Montella claimed his maiden win, and podium, in the Supersport class.
Bulega secured second from a distant Öncü with Baldassarri leading Aegerter, De Rosa and the heartbroken Caricasulo home ahead of Booth-Amos, Jespersen and Huertas. EAB’s Glenn van Straalen, Bayliss, Peter Sebestyen, Manzi and Luca Bernardi completed the points finishers with Andy Verdoia and Leonardo Taccini crossing the line unrewarded. Cluzel forced to retire in the closing stages from the edge of the top ten.