WSBK » Chaz Davies
It’s taken him more than a decade, but Chaz Davies finally got his chance to shine on the premier international stage in the 2012 as part of the World Superbike Championship, the Welshman earning plaudits for a tenacious performance that yielded several podiums, including a win, in his debut campaign.
Though he has taken a fairly convoluted route to the top of the motorcycling ladder, with stints at grand prix level – including a few MotoGP wild-cards – and a period racing in the United States, Davies is finally forging his reputation on the world stage and is considered a dark horse for success in 2012.
Starting young, Welshman Davies begins his burgeoning career competing in the British Mini-Moto Championship, winning the title in 1996, 1997 and 1998 before eventually stepping up to the Aprilia 125cc Challenge in 1999.
Two seasons spent in the junior series peaks in 2000 with a run to second in the standings, earning him a graduation to the British 125GP Championship in 2001, where he impresses with his run to seventh overall, despite only taking part in eight of the 13 races.
Indeed, as the youngest-ever winner of a British Championship race aged 14 years and 5 months, Davies proceeds to break more records in 2002 when he is tapped to race in the 125GP World Championship for Matteoni Aprilia. Finishing 11th in the wet at Estoril, Davies becomes the youngest rider to complete a full world championship season.
Stepping up to the 250GP class in 2003 with Aprilia Germany, Davies – now 16 years old – adds another milestone to his tally by finishing 15th in the second race at Welkom, becoming the youngest-ever 250GP scorer.
Davies would go on to repeat that feat several times over the course of the season and though he isn’t able to crack the top ten, his regular points help him up to 14th position in the final standings.
Sticking with Aprilia Germany for 2004, Davies progresses further, reaching the top ten for the first time at Brno with a run to eighth, before lowering his personal bests with a sixth at Phillip Island and then a fifth at Valencia.
Claiming 13th in the final standings, Davies enters into a third season with Aprilia Germany for 2005, but results are harder to come by on the ‘kit’ bike and he can only scrape into the top ten on two occasions, leaving him down in 16th overall.
Prompting a change of team for 2006, Davies pens a deal to race with the Italian-based Camptella outfit with the promise of semi-works Aprilia machinery, but the team encounters sponsorship issues, leaving him on a dated version of the quarter-litre bike at the start of the season.
Though he would score points at the season opener, Davies struggles over the next four races and duly parts ways with Camptella after the French Grand Prix, returning only for a couple of one-off performances aboard a Honda at Donington Park and Valencia.
Despite spending much of the 2006 season on the sidelines, Davies returns to full-time motorcycling action in 2007, competing in the American-based AMA Supersport Championship and AMA Formula Xtreme Championship with the Celtic Yamaha team. Davies impresses in both classes, taking two podiums in the Xtreme category on the way to sixth overall, while he also finishes 13th in the Supersport standings.
The 2007 season also heralds Davies’s surprise MotoGP debut when he gets a last minute call up to replace the injured Alex Hoffman at d’Antin Ducati in Laguna Seca. Already present at the circuit as a result of his AMA Supersport duties, though the lateness of the promotion – coupled to his unfamiliarity of the machine – keeps him out of the points, Davies impresses many with his swift adaptability.
As a result, Davies would get another call up to compete in the final three races at Phillip Island, Sepang and Valencia. Though he only makes two starts, after injury rules him out of the season finale, and fails to score in either, Davies again shows well to out-qualify several more experienced rivals.
His performances duly earn him the attention of the Ducati bosses, who offer him a role as test rider for the 2008 season. However, Davies turns down the offer in favour of full-time competition, once again in the AMA Supersport and Formula Xtreme Championships, riding the Attack Kawasaki.
Beginning the season in superb style with victory in the prestigious Daytona 200 (after original winner Josh Hayes is disqualified for a technical infringement), Davies podiums again at Barber to finish fifth overall in the Xtreme standings, as well as sixth in the Supersport reckoning.
Switching to the newly conceived AMA Daytona Sportbike Championship for 2009 riding the KWS Aprilia, Davies proves competitive with podiums at Laguna Seca and New Jersey, but he can get no higher than ninth in the final standings.
Nonetheless, by the end of the 2009 season, Davies was already in the midst of a move that would revitalise his career, the Welshman making a surprise end-of-season appearance in the World Supersport Championship. Joining the ParkinGO Triumph team in place of the out-of-favour Gianluca Nannelli, Davies signs for the final three races of the season.
Making his debut at Imola, Davies stuns the paddock by claiming remarkable fourth place finish on his debut, a performance made all the more impressive considering his lack of experience on the three-cylinder Triumph 675, a bike that had struggled to match the pace of the Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki contingent all season.
Similarly impressive showings at Magny-Cours and Portimao would duly prompt ParkinGO to offer a full-time deal to Davies for 2010, which he subsequently accepted.
Continuing on the Triumph, though many feel the bike still lacks the outright pace of the Hondas and Kawasakis, Davies frequently out-performs the machine to make the podium on four occasions in 2010, even if he is denied a maiden victory at Imola (after race leaders Laverty and Sofuoglu collide at the final bend) when he runs out of fuel on the final lap within just metres of the last corner.
Keen to retain its star performer, Triumph offer Davies an extension for 2011 with a view to joining the Superbike ranks in 2012. However, just a month before the start of the season, it is revealed that Triumph is withdrawing its factory support from ParkinGO, prompting the team to make a last minute switch to Yamaha machinery.
Though Davies would be riding the bike that won the 2009 title in the hands of Cal Crutchlow, few expected the dated machines – which hadn’t turned a wheel for more than a year – to be competitive. On the contrary, the YZF-R6 proved to be immediately fast in testing, transforming Davies and Luca Scassa into unexpected title contenders pre-season.
And so it proved, Scassa showing the bike’s pace with wins in the opening two rounds, while Davies gave chase with his maiden WSS victory at Assen. Following it up with a perfect weekend at Monza – fastest in every practice session, pole position, victory and fastest lap -, Davies began to surge away from his less consistent rivals mid-season.
Further wins at Aragon, Silverstone and the Nurburgring put Davies within touching distance of the title at Imola, only for his engine to blow whilst leading by a considerable distance. Nonetheless, Davies collects himself and completes the inevitable at the second time of asking in France, while his win at the season-ending Portimao round gives him six victories in twelve races and ensures he wins the title by a huge 50 points.
Believing to have a potential World Superbike champion in its midst, few are surprised when ParkinGO announces its plans to graduate to the main stage for 2012. Initially tipped to take on Yamaha machinery in the wake of its factory withdrawal, ParkinGO goes on to reveal it will prepare a satellite Ducati for Davies before a change of strategy sees it opt for the Aprilia RSV4 instead.
With hopes high after a strong showing in testing, Davies’s season starts off on a sour note when an accident during the opening round leaves him with a broken wrist. On his return, teething issues with the bike prevent him from cracking the top ten until the ninth race of the season.
Thereafter, however, Davies’s form takes a sharp upturn, beginning with a maiden podium finish at Miller Motorsports Park and a challenge for victory at Motorland Aragon. However, it was his unexpected win at the Nurburgring, ahead of factory Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty, that assured Davies’s reputation as a Superbike star-in-waiting.
Often a more accomplished racer than qualifier, as he showed in WSS too, rookie errors prevented Davies from claiming the podium at Assen, Moscow and Portimao, but he had nonetheless done enough to catch the attention of rival teams and the announcement he would join BMW for 2013 was met with paddock approval.
Joining Marco Melandri, Davies is being tipped for a potential title tilt in 2013…Career Highlights2013:
Signs to join Marco Melandri at BMW Italia 2012:
World Superbike Championship, ParkinGO MTC Aprilia, 9th (1 win) 2011:
World Supersport Championship, ParkinGO Yamaha, Champion (6 wins) 2010:
World Supersport Championship, ParkinGO Triumph, 4th2009:
AMA Daytona Sportbike Championship, KWS Aprilia, 9th
World Supersport Championship (3 races), ParkinGO Triumph, 20th2008:
AMA Supersport Championship, Attack Kawasaki, 6th
AMA Formula Xtreme, Attack Kawasaki, 5th (1 win) 2007:
MotoGP World Championship (3 races), d’Antin Pramac Ducati, N/C
AMA Supersport Championship, Celtic Yamaha, 13th
AMA Formula Xtreme Championship, Celtic Yamaha, 6th2006:
250cc World Championship, Camptella Aprilia, 32nd 2005:
250cc World Championship, Aprilia Germany, 16th2004:
250cc World Championship, Aprilia Germany, 13th2003:
250cc World Championship, Aprilia Germany, 14th2002:
125cc World Championship, Matteoni Aprilia, 29th2001:
125cc British Championship, 7th2000:
Aprilia 125cc Challenge, 2nd 1999:
Aprilia 125cc Challenge, 6th