He has a host of titles to his name. In 1999, at age 12 he was ‘Superteen of the Year’ and in 2002 he became the youngest rider to complete a full Grand Prix season. Then, one year into the Supersport World Championship, he took the prized Supersport World Champion title. Along the way, he raced for the American AMA and MotoGP. Today, Chaz Davies is in his 2nd year at the World Superbike Championship and he has already defined himself as a rider to be watched. His first season in SBK last year saw him take four podiums. Now, Davies is looking toward the 2013 season riding for the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK team alongside Marco Melandri. The turning point this year came with Aragon, as Davies took the 1st place in both the races. The races at Monza were disappointing, but the Welshman is looking to put that behind him and is aiming for multiple podiums. In an exclusive interview with Riding Fast and Flying Low, he talks about the way ahead, the challenges, new circuits and how racing became a way of life.
Q The Monza races turned out to be quite challenging. What are the impressions you have taken away after that round?
Chaz: The impressions are that we have pace in every way, in the front group. We had the pace to be in the front group. But then we had a bad qualifying or a lack of experience with this bike in new circuits. It is also quite critical for me that we have a good Friday. If we lose a Friday because of a wet condition wherein the rest of the weekend is dry then we are one day behind because obviously the bike is new to me at the circuits. It is not new, but when you are riding the circuits sometimes you need to just adapt the bike to the circuit and having the data from the past year would be very nice. But obviously that’s something I don’t have. The impression is that we are not too far away. We just need a little bit better weather earlier in the weekend or just a more consistent weekend.
Q Have the races at Monza changed or affected your strategy for the coming races? How?
Chaz: No, not at all. Monza is about the first race I didn’t have the bike to run in the front group. I think, if I was with them, I could have stayed with them for some of the race, or most of the race probably. By the 2nd race, I had the pace and setup to win. It was just a fact of being too far back and pushing hard to regain position. But the strategy for the coming races hasn’t changed.
Q What are your expectations and goals from the rest of the season?
Chaz: No expectations really. I want to try to be on the podium as much as possible. The big thing is to improve my grid position because definitely, the last two races have been hurt by that. But the goal is to be on the podium as much as you can, and obviously to try to win.
Q You had a stunning round in Aragon. What went through your mind as you took the podium at the end of Race 2?
Chaz: A lot really: Just from where I came even in the January tests to Philip Island to March to the feeling of how much we have improved in a relatively short space of time. For everyone to come together like that, that was hugely satisfying. That was part of it. I was extremely happy for the team and for the work they have done over winter. It was the first sign this year that showed we can deliver good results and that made everybody happy.
Q Going back a little, you started racing really young. When did you first get on a bike? What are your first memories and when did you realize that racing is what you wanted to do?
Chaz: My first memory on a bike was when I was 7-year-old by myself. My dad had a go-kart circuit. After that there was Mini-Moto racing; there was all sorts going on. I was probably 11 and I did a few years in Mini Moto. You turn up and have fun with people you see every couple of weeks. It was not all that serious and then I realised that people actually did it for a living, so I started watching bike racing on television.
Q It has been a long, varied road – AMA, MotoGP, Supersports and now SBK. What have been the key challenges along the way?
Chaz: The right option at the right time is always difficult. It is always a battle. You need either really good support or financial support – one way or another. It’s always a battle. Every year you have got different challenges. Maybe the bike isn’t great, so you are trying your best with it. There can be any number of things: sometimes you have a good bike, but not a good team, something like that. There’s always something different every year. The most challenging though is to come from quite good results in grand prix, to not-so-good results, to disappearing for a couple of years, to starting to rebuild your career again to prove to people that you can win world championships and also races in superbikes. It is tough to get the opportunity because sometimes people can remember when you were 15 years old with a bad bike and say that you were not good enough.
Q What are your thoughts while on the grid, waiting for the lights to go on?
Chaz: Mostly it is trying to keep as relaxed as possible and not to think too much. I visualise the start sometimes, but not every time. It depends on how I feel. But mostly, a combination of being relaxed and focused.
Q Which is your favourite circuit in the world and why?
Chaz: Laguna Seca in California. It’s challenging, fun, and it’s in a great place. Mostly the character of the circuit itself is far different from everywhere else. The elevation is really extreme there, up and down and very steep. The profile of the corners is something special that you really don’t see any more. The place itself is very impressive.
Q Who is your absolute racing idol and why?
Chaz: To be honest, I don’t have an absolute. I have always respected a lot of excellent riders over the years, but in terms of an absolute, none. I have a lot of respect for riders for their quality.
Q There are several new rounds this season. What are your thoughts on the new rounds? Do you think they bring added challenge to SBK?
Chaz: Yes, I think so. Every time we go to a new circuit, it is interesting especially if we go to a new country. We had Russia last year for the first time. It is an opportunity to see a different place and culture. And also India this year at the end of the year and it will be an opportunity to see something that should be a different place and a completely different culture. It is interesting as it expands the profile for the championship. It is also good for the riders. I think most riders enjoy going to different places.
Q How do you prepare for them, and which is the one you are looking forward to?
Chaz: I am excited about going back to Laguna Seca personally; it will be good for me. Sometimes the only way to prepare for a new circuit is to check YouTube videos. So with the India circuit we will be looking at the F1 videos on YouTube. Apart from that there is not much that you can do. You can only get a basic idea of the way the circuit goes. You don’t learn much, but at least you know where the corners go right or left. If it is on the Playstation, I think it (India) probably should be on the F1 game. I have got that on my computer. I am going to play that and probably dominate it as well.
Q What about the Indian circuit. Are you excited about the Indian round? What are your thoughts and how are you preparing for it?
Chaz: I don’t know a lot about India or the circuit, but have heard a lot about it. I am looking forward to try and be somewhere different really. It is always difficult in the first year because you don’t know the place but you learn where the cool places to go are. India is so different to everywhere else that there is a lot to learn there. Hopefully after the race, I have got plans to go to the Himalayas. I get to also include a little trip because it’s the last race of the year and I will be able to do something one way in that region.
A big, big thank you to Britta Weddige for coordinating and organizing the interview with Chaz Davies.