Chaz Davies reckons he has what it takes to beat double World Superbike champ Jonathan Rea to the title this year after the mid-season breakthrough that saw him cruise to seven wins from eight races
The Welshman decimated his opposition in the final four rounds of 2016 after a productive test with his Ducati team in the summer break yielded a marked step forward with the Panigale’s set-up.
“At the end of the season, we’d really found our base. After we’d changed the set-up in testing, the whole package was working good, not just at one track but the entire final half of the season after the summer break.
“It’s a shame that second race in Germany was wet as I think I could have had a clean sweep, but it’s all if buts and maybes. The biggest thing for me was the turnaround compared to 2015, even at the end of the season when we were strong we still struggled in Qatar but this year we won both races with really convincing pace. That was the most satisfying note to finish on because it’s not just a flash here or a flash there, it’s consistent, race winning pace.”
Had it not been for an inconsistent mid-season, Davies would have undoubtedly been able to challenge Rea for the crown last year, but with the improved set-up meaning Davies no longer has to ride over the limit, he’s confident that won’t be a problem as the 2017 season gets underway next month.
“Jonny is super consistent,” Davies explained. “His first championship he won by having the outright pace, he always seemed to have that little bit more. There were times where we could match him but for him he had it everywhere. This year has been more about his consistency and that’s what got him the title, a bad day for him is finishing third!
“That’s what has been our downfall the last couple of years, we have had zero point finishes and when you’re racing against someone like Jonny it instantly puts you on the back foot. I’m happy for the end of the season, I didn’t put a wheel wrong and I haven’t crashed since the last race before the summer break and that’s where I’m at right now.
“The bike is more in balance and I’m getting better feedback from it so I’m not skirting that limit of being on the edge of crashing in a race. I’ve backed off that few per cent which is nice and that’s the key to being able to push Jonny to the title next year.”
However, the Welshman is aware that it might not just be Rea he has to beat this year with the WSB grid looking the strongest its been in recent years.
“The next season is stacking up really good, there are bikes which are improving, new bikes coming in and a lot of good riders! The competition is deep, there’s Eugene coming back and Bradl coming in which is always good. It’ll only show the level this championship has been at for the last couple of years.”
Once World Superbike’s dominant force, Ducati hasn’t won a title in the series since Carlos Checa took victory aboard the 1198 in 2011, so Davies is fully aware what winning the crown for the Italian marque would mean.
“It would be massive to take the title for Ducati,” he said. “I know what it’s like to win a race for them so I can’t begin to imagine how it’d feel to win the championship. The bike has evolved a lot since I first jumped on it at the back end of 2013. It’s come a long, long way. “Things aren’t staying still, we’re pushing hard and I think that’s shown in our results. Next year, I’m really confident we can push for the championship and put ourselves that notch higher up in the hearts of the Ducatisti!”
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