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Luca Bernardi: WorldSSP’s Latest Rising Star

Luca Bernardi: WorldSSP’s Latest Rising Star

Heading into the 2021 FIM Supersport World Championship season, questions were raised over who would be challenging for the title, after reigning champion Andrea Locatelli made the step up to the FIM Superbike World Championship with the Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK team. Several names were put forward, but one who perhaps went somewhat under the radar was San Marino youngster Luca Bernardi.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Bernardi got into motorcycle racing at a young age and contested the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship during the 2018 season, taking a best finish of fourth on his way to 17th in the final standings. But that was clearly not representative of this young rider’s potential.

For 2019, Bernardi moved across to the Italian CIV Supersport 600 class, and after a year's experience, he went on to take an emphatic championship victory the following season. That saw the 19-year-old return to the world championship paddock in WorldSSP for 2021 with the CM Racing Team on a Yamaha R6.

“I got into racing because of my father,” Bernardi said. “He is my inspiration, I used to watch him race when I was younger. I did a full season of WorldSSP300 in 2018 and was looking at potentially stepping up to the WorldSSP class for the following year, but I couldn’t find a spot in a team. So instead, I raced in the CIV 600 class, which gave me some good experience on the Yamaha R6. I’ve always ridden Yamaha bikes, I like the family and have always preferred the feeling with both the R3 and the R6.”

Bernardi was immediately quick at the Aragón opener, climbing from ninth on the grid to finish fourth in his first-ever WorldSSP race. The next weekend saw another step forward, with the youngster already taking his maiden podium in the second race at Estoril, finishing just 0.375s off race-winner Dominique Aegerter.

That scintillating early form didn’t stop there, and in his home round at Misano, Bernardi twice finished on the podium, taking second in both races and climbing to third in the riders’ standings.

After this impressive start, Bernardi looked back on his season until that moment: “I was expecting to be fighting at the front, maybe not as early as this, but I knew what my capabilities were. Of course, the experience on the Yamaha R6 in CIV 600 had helped, but the level of competition in WorldSSP is very high, so I wasn’t sure exactly how long it would take to adapt to the championship.

“I thought I’d also struggle with the new tracks, but I hadn’t ridden at Aragón or Estoril on the Yamaha R6 before and they went quite well. Of course, I have ridden and won at Misano before, and I was really hoping for a victory but it was just out of reach.” 

In Assen and Most, although Bernardi missed out on another podium finish, he showed great tenacity to continuously improve throughout a race weekend. He was well outside the top 10 on combined Free Practice in both rounds, but dug deep and scored a pair of top five finishes. In the latest round at Navarra, Bernardi was back to the podium, scoring a pair of third-place finishes, as he chases a top three finish in the overall standings.

With the season fast drawing to a close, Bernardi isn’t thinking about the future too much, but believes he is ready for any opportunity that should arise.

“I am not focused so much on next season to be honest,” Bernardi said. “I am just concentrating on this year and fighting for podiums and wins. Of course, I do believe that if any rider gets an offer to race in WorldSBK, they should take it because it’s better to get the experience on the 1000cc bikes as soon as possible. If I do another year in WorldSSP, then my goal will obviously be to fight for the title.”