WorldSBK Portimao: False neutrals almost derailed Manzi’s maiden win

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Stefano Manzi secured the debut WorldSSP victory for the Dynavolt Triumph project in Saturday’s first race at Portimao.

Of all the new ‘Next Generation’ bikes on the Supersport grid in 2022 maybe the Triumph Street Triple RS was the least likely one to win a race. Sure, it competed in British Supersport last season, but it was not the stand-out bike.

This year in WorldSSP the Yamaha has still been the bike to beat, and the Ducati has been the best of the Next Gen iron horses. But there we were on Saturday at Portimao, with Manzi and Triumph the best of the new breed, even on the most road bike derived one of the lot.

The Dynavolt Triumph team is, of course, the PTR team of WorldSSP reknown but they have not won a race since 2016, until Portimao. So a race win this year looked unlikely to many.
How was this first Next Gen win achieved, and why by the Triumph and not the Ducati or MV Agusta?

“It’s not a simple answer,” Team Principal Simon Buckmaster said when asked why them and not the others? “If you look at the balancing rules, obviously our bike is not faster, his is better than mine, all that sort of stuff. But you have to say, it looks about right. It could have been us. It could have been Bulega [on the Aruba Ducati].

“It was us. I can only say I’m really proud of our team and the job we’ve done, and happy to work with Triumph. To actually do it with a road bike - it is in the ethos of the class. We took a road bike with no fairing, put a fairing on it, old style production racing and made it a winner. That’s a tribute to Triumph, it’s a tribute to the team and everyone involved.”

Triumph has previously been a bit reticent to get too involved in racing, so for those who decided to go along with the Next Generation idea, it must mean a lot?

“In racing, it’s a historic thing,” agreed Buckmaster. “It’s the first Triumph win in the World Supersport Championship, the first Next Generation bike to win. So, I think it means a lot for everybody. It’s a huge boost to the team and Triumph. Dynavolt and all our partners, It’s just a great return on everybody’s investment and time and everything they put in.”

The winning drought for PTR is over also, as Buckmaster explained. “Our last win as a team was 2016 in Qatar with Kyle Smith. The last podium is 2018, here at Portimao with Kyle Smith. We took this bike as a new project at the start of ’21 [in BSS]. Kyle got injured, so it finished our championship challenge. We won [races] in the first season in British Supersport. We won here. I’m proud of everybody.”

Manzi, for his part, was happy with his first win and to be the first rider to do it on one of the new clutch of WorldSSP bikes. He did, as we remember, score two podiums - second and third - before, at Most, but this win - by just 0.011 seconds from Baldassarri’s faster Yamaha, was special.

“Already Most I had a second,” said Manzi. “That was a good one, but victory is always special. Also, the first victory.”

So how was it done, from struggling a little at times to winning? Why win here at Portimao?

“Because we found in the last few races a good setup of the bike, a good balance of the bike,” the Italian explained. “We have to know that is a naked bike for the road; for the street. So, it’s very strange when you start with a basic setting. Now we adapt a lot on my riding style also to ride in a track, because it’s very different. Then it’s step by step and arrive only now, but is better now than never.”

When did Manzi realise that he could win this one, for real? “I start with the idea to win,” he admitted. “Because every time we struggle in qualifying for some issue or some problem, and then this is my best qualifying, in fourth place. So, I started with the thought to win. Then in the start when I was in front first time, I do the time one second faster than was another rider in front of me. But every time, they overtook me on the straight, so it was difficult to catch my rhythm.

“In the final three laps I could do my rhythm. In the last one, I found a false neutral two times, so it was a bit risky! Baldassarri closed a bit of gap to me, but finally I was able to win. This is fantastic!”

Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images