Ducati’s Chaz Davies Interview – Exclusive From Laguna Seca

Ducati's Chaz Davies SBK Interview | Talks USA & Grass Roots Racing
Ducati’s Chaz Davies – photo by Ara Ashjian

Following a year with the BMW Motorrad Goldbet team, Chaz Davies joined the Aruba.it Ducati Team for 2014 World Superbike. This was quite a challenge; Ducati was in its second year of racing the 1199 Panigale, and even Carlos Checa – the Spaniard who claimed the 2011 SBK title aboard a Ducati 1198 – couldn’t earn a win in the Panigale’s debut year. Checa’s best finish was sixth in Portugal.

Davies spent the 2014 year helping the factory Ducati team refine the 1199, and earned four podiums. The Welshman followed that up with earning the 1199 Panigale it’s first-ever World SBK win at Aragon in 2015, which was followed by four additional wins that season – a double at Laguna Seca, and one win each at Sepang and Jerez. He would finish 2015 SBK in second, 132 points behind the man who simply dominated – Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea.

Davies is once again on a tear in 2016 SBK, earning two doubles in Aragon and Imola. He entered Laguna Seca Mazda Raceway as a favorite due to his doubles in 2015, but suffered a DNF in race one, and finished third in race two.

Ahead of Laguna Seca SBK – round nine of 14 ahead of the summer break – Ultimate MotorCycling’s Nic de Sena caught up with Davies. Davies is currently third in points, 62 behind Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes, and 108 behind Rea. 

Ultimate Motorcycling: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. You’re familiar with the Laguna Seca, what do you think you’re going to have to do in order to compete with the Kawasakis over the next couple races?

Chaz Davies: Yeah, I think we’re going to be in for tight races. My pace and the pace of the Kawasaki seems pretty similar at the moment. We’ll have to see how it plays out in the race. Last year we were a step ahead, but I feel like things are a little bit closer here this weekend. The Kawasakis seem to have good pace, so we’ll just see how it goes. We need to make a good start and get into the rhythm.

UM: You’re familiar with US racing. You spent a good number of years racing here as well – how do you feel about the level of skill that’s coming out of MotoAmerica at the moment in comparison to the European leagues?

CD: It’s a different situation in the states, obviously. I think there are some very good riders here but to make the jump over to World Superbike, I think it’s difficult to do for them – not from a speed point of few, if you look at Cameron Beaubier, he did very well in Donington, but to make that jump and come out your comfort zone a little bit; I think the top guys in the United States can make a good living here, so it’s somewhat of a risk when they step over to the world stage. You don’t know the team, the bike, and all of that stuff, so for sure there are a lot of good riders over here but it is kind of a different game.

UM: Can you talk about some of the youth development programs? When you were younger, you were able to go through camps, however the US doesn’t have a lot of youth oriented racing. Can you comment on any of that?

CD: The grass roots stuff is very important and they’ve got it down to a fine art in Spain–nowhere else competes with that. Even in the UK, there are a lot of small championships, but there is nothing to develop the bridge to make the leap into MotoGP or even to go to the Spanish championship. I think a lot of the time the limiting factor is cost. You can go places if you’ve got a pocket full of cash and that’s really shit. That’s the shit thing about this sport. It’s gone even more so that way even when I speak to young riders about “what’s their plan, what are they doing?” And everyone is trying to raise money – constantly. Not everybody’s got a rich dad who can fund their way to MotoGP. That happens to the lucky few but unfortunately that’s the way it’s all gone.

Even in Moto3, you get the parity with bikes and stuff like that, but it comes at a cost. Not everyone can afford that. It’s a shame really.

UM: That’s some great insight about the current state of things. The Ducati is running quite strong this year, what are some of the strengths and weaknesses that you’ve come across this season?

CD: We’ve come a long way in the three years that I’ve been riding the bike. We’ve found power, we’ve understood our chassis, and our weaknesses early on were the chassis. That’s where we’ve needed to improve and we’ve done that. Now it’s kind of like the final pieces to the puzzle to battle Kawasaki. I still feel like there are a few areas where we need to improve in order to be consistently there, but when we get it right, we get it really right. I feel like it’s still a work in progress and we’ve got a few more steps.

UM: Sounds good – I know you guys are getting ready to get out on track and I don’t want to take up anymore of your time, if there’s anything you’d like to add, feel free!

CD: Thank you very much (laughs); it’s always good to be here, racing in the states. I feel like there are a lot of people that I know here, or people that remember me from when I was racing in the states and I feel like they connect with me for that reasons, which is always nice. I feel like I have a little fan base.