Chaz Davies knows that WorldSBK is 'very competitive' in 2018 and the key for Ducati winning isn't a better bike; it's having a refined package that has evolved over the years.

“I really think that WorldSBK is very competitive now,” assessed Davies.

“We're probably missing some of the old hands, like when Max Biaggi or Carlos Checa raced before, but maybe I'm one of those old hands now!

"There’s good depth there - a lot of good riders - and the bikes are getting better too.”

One of the biggest talking points over the winter in WorldSBK was the potential for a change in the competitive balance of the series.

With wholesale regulation changes, in addition to a shift in the philosophy behind the regulations, it was clear that the product on track would change.

The racing has been as hard fought at the front as ever, but the ability for other manufacturers to challenge the dominance of Kawasaki and Ducati has definitely seen races play out in a different manner.

There may be familiarity in the standings with Jonathan Rea and Davies leading the way, but over the course of the opening eight races both have had very different paths to the top.

Rea has had to adapt to situations in Race 2 and having to fight his way through the pack. The Sunday shuffle didn't affect him much in 2017 but starting from the third row of the grid has left its mark on the reigning champion.

For Davies it has also forced him to race against different bikes. In Round two he had to fight with the Yamahas and the Honda of good friend Leon Camier before claiming success in Race 2.

CLOSE-UP MotoGP 2C WorldSBK practice starts

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“The gaps between the bikes are really tight this year. Something has changed and bikes have improved.

"To be battling with Leon on the Honda in Thailand is a good example, because you can see how much that bike has come on. We’ve been pegged back but they’ve also made big steps.

"It was fun to race against Leon in Thailand but I wouldn't race him any differently compared to anybody else.

"I try to race fair but not to give an inch on track and I race him the same as anyone... but when we're out karting it's totally different! Friendship is out the window in a go-kart race. No hesitation about that!

"The Yamaha was strong last year and it’s actually interesting to see how the different bikes work on the track.

"I feel like our package is really solid but it's different to last year. Last year we had good top-end power and I could pull out and pass a Yamaha on the straight.

"In Thailand though I had to rely on them having sub-par corner exits, and me nailing the exit, just to get the draft on them. Without that I couldn’t do anything about them. I couldn’t actually go around them in the slipstream.

"So it’s definitely different on track this year.”

One thing that isn't different for Davies in 2018 is his bike.

Sure there have been changes to the Ducati Panigale forced by the new regulations, but he still has a lot of previous data that he can analyse to find solutions. For the Welshman that's the biggest advantage that Ducati, and Kawasaki, have compared to their rivals.

“There isn't a massive difference between the bikes now. The advantage that we have is experience with our package.

"Our bike has been at a good level now for a few years. I think that is probably what’s just keeping us a little bit ahead and the rest are still finding their feet.

"When you have guys like Leon, who have got a new bike, it means that they’re going to be changing things a lot more.

“Our package, in comparison, is a little bit more refined. I feel like that’s probably our trump card at the minute.

"It might not necessarily be that we’ve got more speed or better acceleration or anything like that, but we have got have a massive bank of data on a really solid package.”

The next test for Davies on that package will be this weekend, May 11-13, at the Italian round of WorldSBK at Imola.

It's a home round for Ducati and Davies has made it a home for home for the number seven with back-to-back double victories.



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