An exclusive interview with new factory Ducati World Superbike rider Chaz Davies.

The 26-year-old Welshman spent the early years of his career racing with the likes of Casey Stoner and Leon Camier, before battling uncompetitive machinery in the 125 and 250cc World Championships from 2002-2006.

A switch to the AMA - plus some replacement MotoGP rides at Pramac Ducati - followed before Davies returned to Europe in the World Supersport Championship, where he made an instant impression and went on to win the title in 2011.

That success secured a move to World Superbike on Aprilia machinery, where a race win in his rookie season saw Davies offered a factory-backed BMW ride alongside Marco Melandri for 2013. Chaz claimed six podiums, including three wins, last year and - when BMW announced it was leaving WSBK - was signed by Ducati for its returning factory team...
How's the weather in Wales?

Chaz Davies:
Wet! Our kart track has actually been underwater twice now in the last few weeks which is pretty rare. I was out on the bike earlier though and managed to dodge all the puddles.

Fortunately it seems to be getting a bit better and it'd have to be a serious storm to reach us at the house here so hopefully we'll be OK.
Do you regard yourself as Welsh or British?

Chaz Davies:
I was born in Knighton, Mid Wales, went to school and grew up in Wales and even though where I live is close to the border with England, I do consider myself Welsh first.

I used to speak Welsh from learning it at school but I have to admit a lot of that has gone now. I remember a few phrases but I don't think I'd get very far if someone tested me.

I'm proud to be Welsh and it's great to feel that there's a whole country behind you when you're on track as Welsh bike fans often are.
Have you ever asked for a Welsh flag for the podium?

Chaz Davies:
Actually I did ask once because there are some people who are Welsh like myself and when they saw the Union Jack above my head on the podium felt that a Welsh flag would look better. I was told that for simplicity reasons the Union Jack should cover all members of the Union though.

It's always great to see the Welsh flags in the crowd and I'm happy to see that there have been an increasing number of them over the last two years. It's a great flag and really stands out, we've got the dragon on there and as flags go it's a bit of a statement and would look great over the podium.
So hopefully someone from Silverstone will read this and have one ready for the round there?

Chaz Davies:
I've got to get on the podium first!
I read once that you said that your father was living his dreams through you, does he still provide motivation for you?

Chaz Davies:
No, I wouldn't say so now. I make the motivation for myself, I get myself up in morning and am always trying to be better at what I do, but he did put me on that track in the beginning. Saying that he's living his dreams through me is probably a bit strong.

He always wanted to be a top flight bike racer and did it because he loved the speed and going fast and whenever I see someone in my local town they never fail to mention what a nutter my dad was! When going through town with him he'll always mention which roads he's done flat out, which lamp posts he's hit and all the close shaves he's had. Luckily he's still here to tell the tale though.

I definitely got the buzz of racing through him but on the motivation side of things that's all mine, I'm strongly driven to succeed and am happy to do whatever is needed to get that success.

My father doesn't manage me anymore and has a fairly back seat role. He doesn't much like leaving home now and stays home running this place [kart track] and also a woodland we've got. He'll only come to maybe one foreign race and the British rounds. It stresses him out quite a bit coming to the races because I know that he's so keen to see me doing well and staying safe.
Didn't Alberto Puig once manage you?

Chaz Davies:
Not exactly manage. I first got into contact with him when we went to a trial in Jerez off our own back in 2000. I was dog slow and there were a lot of riders faster than me and I didn't even qualify for the race proper.

I was there to make an impression and was bitterly disappointed to not even make the main race, but Alberto and some colleagues of his said that they'd seen something in me that they liked. So out of a lot of other choices I got the last spot in his Telefonica team and that's how I started racing in 125s.

It was an outfit that was running in the Spanish championships and I was racing in the same team as the likes of Casey Stoner, Leon Camier, Joan Lascorz, Julian Simon and Jordi Torres. Alberto was kind of the boss of it when he wasn't on GP duties with Pedrosa.

It was a good foot in the door and Alberto was closely connected to Dorna and that lead me to my first ride in GPs with Team Matteoni. It was a good start and I think I was pretty lucky to get through, though the ride with Team Matteoni didn't turn out to be what I'd hoped for.
Do you think that the difficulties you've had in your varied career have made you the rider you are?

Chaz Davies:
Yeah, over the years scratching around for a ride and getting the occasional result was hard.

It was the three [WSS] races with Triumph in 2009 that gave me some belief that I could run close to the front and get a podium in Supersport which is what you need to do to get a name for yourself. I finished fourth in my first race at Imola so that got me on the right pathway for 2010. I didn't necessarily feel it was my last chance but it was certainly the right one.

It wasn't until I could get into the WSS paddock on a decent bike that I was able to show what I could do. It was a lifeline and I worked hard to make the best of it. It was really the Triumph ride in 2010 where I felt I could do myself justice. It was the whole package; the team were good and I felt like I was riding it well and it all seemed to come together. At the time I didn't think that there were many other chances available and I was lucky to get that one. 2010 felt like the year I could finally show what I could do.

Some people would say that it was the confidence I got from those rides that helped me along, but I don't really find that confidence affects me so much, emotionally I stay pretty level. It's more having all the elements there to show what you can do.

When you get a sniff of winning and you know you can do it, it gets your blood up and you just want more and more of it but crucially you have to be in the right situation to do it. You need all the pieces of the puzzle to be in place.
Why did you race in AMA?

Chaz Davies:
In one way it was the only proper opportunity at the time but it was also a way of breaking away from the grind of not being able to be competitive in GPs. There were other opportunities available in Europe but only ones which would have put me back into the situation I was already in which was to be on an uncompetitive bike where you couldn't win or get onto the podium.

It was time to do something and when the chance to race in AMA came about, I took it. It came about because Jeremy McWilliams put me in touch with an Irish outfit racing there called Celtic Racing. PJ Jacobsen was racing 125s for them at the time. The team owner, Barry Gilsenan, does it all off his own back and does it purely because he loves the racing. He gave me the foot in the door to get to AMA and then allowed me to race the whole 2007 season. Working with that team again gave me the feeling that things were starting to come together.
You never seem to talk about confidence like so many riders do?

Chaz Davies:
No, as I said before, it's really just a puzzle that has to be complete. It's a combination of all things involved. It's not being away from the track and saying to yourself 'I'm going to smash it this weekend!' It's more knowing that your bike, team and ability are in place.

Some riders do work like that where they're so amped before the weekend that their confidence is sky high, but I just need everything to be in place. For me the confidence has basically always been there and needs the right opportunity to show itself. People can say that you don't seem confident but it's just that the rest isn't there.
How do you feel about last season?

Chaz Davies:
Overall I feel pretty happy with it.

Going into the season my goal was to finish top five and I did that. Eugene [Laverty] had the most wins, then Tom [Sykes] and then me and with the number of laps led I was third again. So looking purely at the numbers I could have done better, but finished fifth because of DNFs through technical and rider error and at certain times a lack of experience.

Before the season started if you'd said to me that I'd score the same number of wins as Melandri I'd have taken that. That's what we did and beat him on numerous occasions and I'm not sure if people expected that of me. That showed that I was making the most of the opportunity I'd been given.

The high has to be the double at Aragon but other highs were Russia where until the rain came I felt like I had the same bike as at Aragon - it was on rails. I think I was on for a double there but when it really rained I had a bad pit stop and was too ginger on the out lap. Even in the dry I was four tenths faster than anybody and was just in the zone. I also enjoyed Nurburgring where I was on the receiving end of a red flag decision in the first race, but was in the right place at the right time in the second.

Portimao was very tough for me because we couldn't get it together and I had a crash, but I reckon any race where the results don't come is a low point.
Given your results, you seem to go about your business in a very understated way. Do you think you get enough credit for your performance?

Chaz Davies:
To be quite honest it doesn't really bother me, I don't ride bikes to get praised and have my ego massaged.

I feel quite embarrassed when people talk me up and also talking about my job outside the world of racing isn't that comfortable for me. I love doing what I do but I try to keep it to myself. I like try to work in my own head without shouting from the rooftops about it. It's nice to get recognition but the result is really everything.

I am recognised around the town where I live now and I have to say it can make me a little uncomfortable but it's part of it and there's nothing bad about it. When I'm at the track I'm in that mode but when I'm outside the track I tend to try to keep the racing thoughts where they're needed.

An increasing number of people are taking an interest in what I do and want to stop for a chat and it's really nice when you get stopped by someone who you wouldn't think would take an interest in bike racing. It's not comfortable but it is nice.
Are you a calm rider?

Chaz Davies:
Probably less calm on the bike. I do try and keep it calm but that can be difficult in a race situation. Everything I do is pretty calculated but whether that's calm I don't know.

I'm definitely more of a head rider than a heart rider and that attitude extends to other aspects of my life. I like to think carefully before doing anything on a bike or off it. Sometimes I think I think too much!
When did you know that BMW were withdrawing from the championship?

Chaz Davies:
The Monday after the race in Russia. It was a big blow at the time because only the week before we'd been talking about me continuing with them and from the BMW Italy side they seemed to think that everything was going in the right direction and that I would be there in 2014. To get that news was pretty disappointing when I was getting geared up for having a second year on the same bike. It was what it was, so I had to look for the next thing.

I was particularly gutted because we'd just come off a weekend where I'd had great pace and I'd really got it into my head that I'd be riding the bike the year afterwards. I haven't spent two years on the same bike for eight or nine years now and that made it all the more disappointing. It makes a difference approaching the year knowing that you've got the set up and the bike to hit the ground running, but I just had to get on with things.
Is getting an offer from Ducati in WSBK like getting an offer from Ferrari in F1, where it's an offer that everybody takes?

Chaz Davies:
Yeah, pretty much. Having grown up mainly watching superbikes and having seen riders like Bayliss, Fogarty and Hodgson you felt that Ducati was at the top of the Superbike pile for a long time. To get an offer from them, particularly when it's backed by the factory is one of those things where you have to believe in the whole project. I know what they're capable of and also that they'll be able to pull themselves out of the difficult couple of years they've had recently.

It was good and it is a two year deal which is one of the most important things. As I said before, I haven't ridden the same bike two years in a row for a long time so to know that I'll be riding the same bike for two years gives me real peace of mind.

Ducati's race project is being run by Feel Racing, which is of course the same outfit that was running the BMW team I was with, so I've got the same crew that I'm so familiar with. I've got a new electronics engineer but my chief mechanic and crew chief will be the same. It's also exactly the same set-up as when there was a factory Ducati team in WSBK three years ago and they were pretty successful then.

The feeling I get is that they want those times back again. If I got the impression that they were complacent about the past few years the decision to accept would have been more difficult, but I feel they're pretty hungry.

In many ways it's a perfect situation but there are also other things. When I signed I wasn't aware that Gigi Dall'Igna was coming on board. I heard rumours but I thought he'd declined the offer. So there are quite a few things that came into place after I'd signed to show that Ducati are really, really hungry to get the Panigale on top. Ducati are a massive part of Superbike history and it'll be great to be part of that.

Also with Feel Racing we get the Italian chefs for hospitality so if it's anything like last year, the food will be bang on!
Did you have any other offers on the table?

Chaz Davies:
Yeah, there were a couple of others which I considered very seriously but there was nothing for two years and nothing factory. It wasn't as if I didn't have other options, I actively chose the Ducati ride.
Which elements are Ducati working on to bring the bike forwards?

Chaz Davies:
They had a really difficult season last year because there was a steep learning curve as to what the bike needed. Before signing I got the full rundown as to where they'd started and where they were up to, I know everything they've tried and what they've got in the pipeline.

The major weakness last year was speed. In other ways it was very good and has the Ducati characteristic of being a useable bike, which because of being a twin generates good grip on the side of the tyre. I've ridden it now and it certainly is a bike you can ride hard. So the focus throughout the winter has been working on speed.

I don't think the new engine limit WSBK regulations will hurt Ducati because it's been reliable and the guys know what they can tune and get away with. I think those rules may hurt others though.
Did you sign the deal without ever having ridden the Panigale?

Chaz Davies:
Yes. I had quite a lot of anticipation before getting on the bike but I feel it's best to approach these things in an open minded way. I don't think it's a good idea to have any preconceptions and when I first rode it, it definitely had a very different feel to anything I'd ridden before and had a different way of getting round a race track. I actually got used to it pretty quickly though which I was relieved at because that's not always the case.

The Ducati's very broadly different to the BMW I was used to, but it's difficult to pinpoint an exact area because it has different power delivery, places where it makes the power, handling, seating position and seat height so I'm pleased that I got used to such a different beast so quickly. It's a great bike to ride though.

My lap times have been pretty decent so far and the initial contact with the bike has been good. It can take some time for a bike to feel like it's properly yours and I was happy that it felt like that so quickly, I actually felt that sooner on the Ducati than I did on the BMW.
Do you still have ambitions in MotoGP?

Chaz Davies:
Yeah, I think everybody does and I'm no different but before going there I want to succeed at what I'm doing. I don't feel that I need to be there as soon as possible, I'm totally focused on this opportunity I've got with Ducati.

If a really good MotoGP chance came along it'd be difficult not to consider it because it's the big show. I've been in that paddock before though and you really have to go there in the right environment with the right team and right people because it can be a long season if you don't.

Hopefully though I can go back there one day. I've already had a little bit of contact with the Ducati in MotoGP a few years ago so I know what it's all about. I've also got three tests a year on the Ducati MotoGP bike written into my contract so we'll see what comes of that.

That was one thing they agreed to and it'll be interesting to be part of that.
So if all things go well it could be conceivable that you could continue with Ducati into MotoGP?

Chaz Davies:
Well, you never know, it's two years away yet but I've got the tests written into my contract so absolutely anything can happen. I'm just looking forward to giving my feedback on it.
And I guess it's fair to say that your team-mate will have a different approach to you?

Chaz Davies:
Yeah that's Davide Guigliano - his approach on track certainly contrasts with mine. It's one end of the spectrum to the other, he has a very flamboyant Italian approach, but off the track he seems a very calm guy and different to what I'd expected. I guess if you call me a head rider then he's fully a heart rider. Whenever we've chatted we've got on well though.
If you could give yourself some advice at the beginning of your career, what would you say?

Chaz Davies:
I would say that I went into GPs with totally different expectations to what it was and it was far more political than I expected, so I'd like to warn myself about that and that when a chance of a factory ride didn't come in 2004 then maybe I should have left. I really hung on for too long.

The factory aspect is so important and even more so in those days on the 250s. I remember that Dunlop accidentally gave me the tyre list for a factory rider and I was baffled because it was like a book, I'd never seen so many choices and numbers but when he saw what he'd given me he quickly snatched it away and gave me my usual list of three fronts and three rears!

I'd also tell myself that times change and opportunities do come in the end and that I just have to be in the right place at the right time.

To be honest though, looking back, I wouldn't change a lot because it's been a pretty decent career. Maybe I didn't make a living at the sport as quickly as I'd hoped for but it's been a great experience. It's all character building isn't it?
Ddiolch choelbren Chaz a phob lwc ar gyfer y flwyddyn nesaf.

Chaz Davies:
Dim problemau.