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What it Takes to Win: Manzi’s Memorable Imola Weekend

What it Takes to Win: Manzi’s Memorable Imola Weekend

Back in Imola, WorldSSP’s Stefano Manzi and his Ten Kate Racing Team put their heads together and worked relentlessly in the boiling heat to bring home not one but two race winning trophies, marking a near perfect weekend for the rider and squad.

The 24-year-old Italian had a good start to his 2023 campaign with several podiums but some less consistent finishes, and things picked up quickly when he managed a sensational home win in Race 2 at Misano, beating his rival, Nicolò Bulega, to the line. 

But after a challenging Round 6 at Donington Park where he could only score a total of 31 points, it was all eyes on Imola for Round 7. The pressure of a second home round was palpable and. coupled with the extreme temperatures that neared 40 degrees Celsius all weekend, and the fact that Manzi hadn’t ridden the circuit for 10 years, it was always bound to be a tough challenge. Not forgetting too that Bulega is also a home rider hungry to hear the legendary national anthem of ‘Fratelli d’Italia’ ringing out. 

However, the vastly experienced Ten Kate Racing team used all their expertise to fine tune and set up Manzi’s R6 perfectly, and showed the Italian that they were by his side for every step of the way, from the sizzling Thursday track walk onwards. This constant support offered by the team, but also by friends and family, gave Stefano every chance to focus solely on his job – finding the best lines around iconic Imola’s curves, twisting the throttle, and staying mentally and physically on top form, his mind set only on the goal of the gold medal. 

“To race in Italy is nice because my family can come here to watch me, and I have some friends that love racing so they come as well. I also see all the people in the grandstands or around the paddock, and it’s so nice” stated Manzi. “If you do well, like I did in Misano, in front of home fans it’s very nice. You know that the people are there for you and it’s amazing. I haven’t raced here for 10 years, but I’m re-learning the track quickly and my team are giving me a lot of support to find the best bike settings, gearing, suspension and tyre choices. I want to go all out to try and win for everybody who is supporting me – from my box to the grandstands.”

This is precisely what Manzi managed, building his pace in each session on track, and putting himself on the front row of the grid on Saturday for the best shot at silverware. Two epic races against his fiercest rival saw Stefano on his best form yet, battling hard but with added smoothness and precision to his often-wild riding style. It was obvious to all onlookers that he meant business, and after winning in a thrilling but red-flagged Race 1, he left no chances for his fellow competitors in Race 2, winning by an indisputable seven seconds and achieving that sought-after double home victory.

Manzi and his team celebrated with passion and pride, releasing all the pent-up tension in some of the most emotional scenes of the Superbike season so far. His team boss shouted and jumped for joy, his mother embraced him, the crowd sang along with the national anthem, and a very good weekend was had by everyone in blue.