Chaz Davies Explains Return To Winning Form At Laguna Seca

“I would’ve struggled to get top five with the bike I had Friday morning.”

Chaz Davies, Ducati, Laguna Seca, World Superbike
Out front, pulling away: Starting from second on the grid, Chaz Davies kept the nose of his Ducati V4 R in front of the Kawasaki ZX-10RR ridden by pole-sitter and current point leader Jonathan Rea over turn 1 and into 180-degree turn 2. He went on to lead every lap of race 2.Nic Coury/photographnic.com

Chaz Davies won his first World Superbike race in more than a year on Sunday under sunny skies at Laguna Seca, a track he loves and the site of many of his successes. The margin of victory over championship point leader Jonathan Rea was 3.3 seconds. Afterward, six months of pent-up emotions flooded forth.

“I didn’t really expect that,” Davies said of his maiden victory on the Ducati V4 R. “Johnny’s pace in the Superpole race with that harder tire [Pirelli’s SC0 development 446 rear slick] was good. And, obviously, his pace yesterday was good.” Rea won 25-lap race 1 on Saturday as well as Sunday’s red-flag-shortened Superpole sprint.

"It's been a long time, 16 months ago in Thailand, since I've been in this position," Davies said. "I've had a lot of trials and tribulations since then—injuries, change of bike, change of crew, change of everything—and here we are. Long may it continue."

Davies admitted he had begun to wonder if he still had what is necessary to win against such a talented field. “Parts of this season have gone well but, generally, we’ve had a lot of difficulty,” he said. “You even start to question: Have you got this in you? Johnny is on great form. Álvaro is on great form. How do you topple those guys?”

Alvaro Bautista, Ducati, Laguna Seca, World Superbike
Davies admitted it was difficult to be seen complaining when teammate Álvaro Bautista (shown) was dominating races. “It’s not a question of riding around problems," he said. "It’s a question of getting the bike in the ‘window.’ The frustrating thing for me is we didn’t get on top of it soon enough.”Nic Coury/photographnic.com

Factory teammate Álvaro Bautista’s stunning start to the season, in which the former MotoGP rider won 11 races in a row, made the situation for Davies even more challenging. “People forget that the V4 R is brand-new," the 32-year-old Welshman said. “And what fits one rider isn’t the same for another.

“For me, it’s been a work in progress since we started. Unfortunately, Álvaro has been making me look pretty average. This weekend has gone a lot better. We finally got a feeling that I’ve been looking for since I got on the bike, and this is the result.

"I know how I feel on a bike when I can win races or at least fight to win races. I know that feeling of pushing the bike so hard that you're nearly crashing everywhere. And that's something I've missed with this bike.

“With the old bike—the Panigale V-twin—you’d be on that limit: Lose the front, pick it up on the throttle, pick up the bike, spin out, just keeping on the edge of grip the whole time, maximizing your performance.” Over the past five seasons, Davies has won 26 races and thrice finished second in the championship.

“But with this bike,” he continued, “there have been so many other things that I’ve been fighting. For sure, Laguna is a good track for me. But on Friday morning, I was so pissed off. Honestly, if I had stayed with that bike, I probably would have struggled to get a top five here. It would have been a bit better than Donington, a bit better than Misano, but not a step.

“But we finally made that step forward, which I’ve been asking for so long. What we did from Friday morning to the afternoon made a big difference, the difference I’ve been looking for. That was the difference between finishing P5 or whatever and fighting to win.”

Chaz Davies, Ducati, Laguna Seca, World Superbike
Celebrate good times: When his lead began to grow, Davies figured Rea had made a “big mistake” and “that he would probably start chipping bits out of me. I just hit my marks, and it kept growing. It was a good feeling. I haven’t been there for a while.”Nic Coury/photographnic.com

Davies scored a pair of distant thirds at Motorland Aragón and finished second to Rea at Imola in the Superpole race. He didn’t specify the changes that, for him, transformed the bike into a winner, only, “The setup change we made—we’re talking about a couple of mil—is massive.”

"There's been no resistance," he added, "just a lack of ideas, a lack of going outside our window to open a new window and get what I need from it. I've been using the bike in this window, and it's just been going like that. Sometimes it works a little bit better than others and then you can compensate in other ways. Maybe one track is a little bit better than another. But, generally, the window has been pretty poor all year and I haven't been comfortable.

“We’ve opened up a new window now. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it’s given us a direction. It will be handy because we can actually look what we’ve improved this weekend, maybe even improve it a bit further, and take the information from that.

“This sport always surprises me how complicated it is. Little details go such a long way. Even for people who work in the sport, sometimes they lose sight of that and go around in circles. But if you stay focused on the target and bring everybody else in line, that’s what you need.”

For Davies, this success comes at a time when Bautista’s form has slipped. The 34-year-old Spaniard relinquished the championship lead to four-time champion Rea a week earlier at Donington Park and failed to score any points at Laguna Seca. He left California with a shoulder injury.

“At the start of the year, Álvaro’s performances were so good,” Davies said. “And even now—he’s been really unlucky for a few races—his pace is still outstanding. No two riders are the same, so sometimes you’ve just got to block out even what your teammate is doing and focus on yourself.”