In the latest of his reports on Crash.net, rising Motorcycle Grand Prix star Chaz Davies reviews round fourteen of the 250cc series, the Malaysian Grand Prix, which saw the 16-year-old extend his recent run of point-scoring finishes, despite having switched to four- wheels earlier in the weekend...

"As soon as we finished the race in Motegi, we all helped to pack up the crates, then left for a hotel nearer to Tokyo airport. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Monday afternoon and I realised that I had forgotten how humid Malaysia is. Once you step outside the airport doors, it is unbelievable. It was also very hot when we arrived at our hotel, which turned out to be about 20 minutes from the Sepang circuit.

"On Tuesday, dad and I met up with Casey and his dad Colin, and went into China Town. Malaysia is well known for having cheap electrical stuff and also really cheap CDs and DVDs, but you have to haggle with the sellers. Last year, there were loads of people on the street selling CDs and DVDs, but the police in Malaysia are trying to stop it, so now there are people stood everywhere who call out to you asking if you want any.

"Me and Casey said to one guy that we did, so they then take you through an alley and up to a room where there were hundreds of different things - DVD players, mini discs, millions of CDs and DVDs. It is all a bit dodgy, but that's the way it is. I brought about 20 DVDs for around ?15. You do run the risk of them being not such good quality but, as they're so cheap, it's worth risking it! As it turned out, when I played them during the week on my computer, only five were 'wobbly' and not very good!

"On Thursday, I had been asked by Dorna to attend a pre-event publicity go-kart race. From the 250s, there was me and Sebastian Porto, and only one 125cc rider, Steve Jenkner - the rest were MotoGP riders, with Colin Edwards, Max Biaggi, Nicky Hayden, Troy Bayliss and Nori Haga all there.

"My kart has got to be the worst kart I have ever driven. Only a couple of karts seemed much good out of all of them, and Colin Edwards was not impressed at all. He was very funny, using very strong language about his 'crap' kart! It seemed that Max and Porto had got about the best karts, and a rumour was circulating that they had been down to the track earlier in the day and picked out their kart already!

"After qualifying, Porto was quickest and we set off for a twelve-lap race. My kart was under-steering everywhere but, as we were all racers, we all wanted to reach the flag first. Max and Porto were having a right scrap for first and second, while I tried to get third off Bayliss, but he blocked me really well. In the end, that's how it finished, with Max winning and me fourth. It was really good fun - Colin was still swearing!

"On Friday morning, I woke up to rain but it did stop at about 8.30am. As Malaysia is so humid, it can sometimes takes ages for the rain to dry and, when we went out on track for our first practice, the track conditions were not ideal, with damp patches everywhere. I ended the session in 13th position, but it was a bit deceptive as no-one could really put in a great lap because of the track conditions and a lack of grip in the wet areas.

"Sepang is not a very grippy circuit at the best of times anyway, but in the afternoon's first qualifying session, the track was completely dry. However, all session, I didn't have a good feeling with the bike. The front end was 'chattering' and the rear end sliding. The front was the worst, as it kept trying to turn in on the slow corners and I didn't feel comfortable trying to push it onto the line I wanted to use. I finished the session in 15th position, with a time of 2min 12.024secs, but I had a lot of problems to try and sort out.

"The front tyre I was using was not the one I had used at Motegi, so I asked my chief mechanic if we could try that for the morning. We also had a problem with the gearbox - second gear was the main problem generally, but all the changes we had available to us in the ratios were going to make problems in other parts of the track. After qualifying, I spent a good couple of hours talking to my mechanics and Klaus, my telemetry man, to see if we could improve the bike for the next day.

"For the second free practice, I had the front tyre that I had used at Motegi, but really it wasn't that much better! We had improved the gearbox, though, which really helped, and other changes my mechanics had made had helped the rear sliding a bit. I tried to follow a couple of faster riders through the parts on the track where I knew I was losing time - Toni Elias had really got the track sorted, being nearly a second quicker than anyone else all weekend, and I was lucky enough to get behind him in a couple of places I needed to improve on.

"Although Toni would pull quite a bit on me, bike for bike, I could still see what lines he used and it definitely helped me improve my lap. I could do low 2min 11secs laps consistently and, after a rear tyre change and with about twelve minutes to go, I put in a 2min 10.99secs, which was over a second faster than what I had done the day before - and put me into sixth place at the time.

"By the end of the session, I had been bumped down to twelfth position but, although I was still getting some chattering on the front and quite a bit of sliding on the rear, I still thought that, in the afternoon, I could probably go about half a second quicker - which I hoped would put me on the third row again. However, this was not to be!

"In fact, I had a disastrous second qualifying. After running-in some pistons, I did two quicker laps but, for some reason, the bike was not behaving the way it had been in the morning. I came in and spoke to my mechanics, and my chief mechanic told me that, after the morning session, he had altered the swinging arm quite a bit to try and help the handling. Unfortunately, it had made it worse, so they put it back to how it had been in the morning. This took about 15 minutes and, as we only have 45 minutes to qualify in, time was going on.

"When I went back out of the pits after the changes, I did a full lap but, as I was coming round to complete the lap, I could smell fuel. I stopped on the side of the track and noticed my fuel pipe had not been put back on in the rush. I had to go back into the pits in case fuel had got on the back tyre but, after a quick wipe, I went out to try and get a time. I had very little time left and knew that, if I wanted to get a time close to the morning's effort, I would need to get going quickly. This didn't happen.

"The more I tried, the more mistakes I made. I knew I was capable of a good time, but I knew the session was about to finish and I hadn't even bettered my best time from Friday. On the last lap, I managed to match Friday's time which, of course, was not anywhere near good enough, so I was going to start the race from 20th position - not where I wanted to be at all.

"After the session, I again talked to my mechanics and decided on a setting and tyres for the race. I was not very confident in either, as I had practically lost a whole session, but we had to make a decision and I would try it in the morning warm-up and hope that it would work.

"The next morning, there was another problem! It was pouring down and everyone thought it was going to stay like that all day. However, just before my warm-up, the rain stopped. The track was still very wet for warm-up and, although I couldn't test the race set-up as I had wanted to - and needed to - the wet session did give me a chance to have some time on the 250cc in wet conditions. The last time - and my first time all year - that I rode the bike in the wet was in the race at Assen, which was a disaster through one thing and another, so it was good to have some time in the wet. I actually felt quite comfortable and ended warm-up in 14th position and with lots more confidence for the wet.

"I then had over two hours before my race, and it was looking like it would be dry race. I was a bit nervous as I didn't really have a set-up I was confident with, but my plan was to try and get a good start, pass as many people as I could on the first lap, and then try and do consistent lap times and see what happened.

"I did make a really good start and, by the end of the first lap, I had passed six riders and was in 14th position in a group of five riders from twelfth to 16th places. My team mate, Dirk, was leading the pack, then Baldolini, me, Marchand and, finally, Olive, and we were all lapping in the same second.

"As I hadn't tested a full tank of fuel in the dry - I normally do this in the warm-up - and my settings weren't great, I was struggling with the heaviness of the bike for the first twelve laps, making it difficult to lean on the front until about two-thirds into the race. I got into a fight for a few laps, with Marchand and Olive swapping places with me, but, once my bike got lighter, I passed both of them and started to pull away.

"For the last eight laps, my bike felt better, but not great. Because us three riders had been tripping each other up, it had allowed Baldolini and Dirk to get away and they were now four-and-a-half seconds in front of me. I got my head down and did very consistent laps and got the gap down to 1.9secs before the flag. I think three more laps and I could have had them both, but the flag was out and I was twelfth. I was disappointed, even though I had done the best I could, but I know, without the chaos of the second qualifying, the top ten was again a possibility.

"Now I fly to Australia this afternoon. I am stopping off for a couple of days with the team in Cairns. It is my team boss' birthday and a friend of his is doing a small party and we may have the chance to go snorkelling off one of the reefs.

"I am looking forward to Phillip Island because I really like the track, even though the weather is usually very, very cold. Once again, I shall try for a top ten - I need to get some more points as my helmet suppliers will give me a bonus if I finish in the top twelve in the championship. I have nine points to make up on Spanish rider - and twelfth place holder - Joan Olive as it is at the moment.

"It is going to be very difficult as the last race is at his home track in Valencia, but I am certainly going to try."

Chaz #57

 

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