While Chaz Davies took the World Superbike paddock by surprise with his decision to hang up his helmet at the end of the season, few would dispute that the 34-year-old picked the right time to raise the curtain on his highest level. running career.
Having lost his Ducati factory ride after two difficult seasons on the Italian marque’s MotoGP-influenced challenger V4 R, it was clear that any opportunity to fight for the title that had eluded the popular Welshman was realistically past. Combine that with the desire to spend more time with his young family and the injuries that marked what has been a grueling campaign with the Go Eleven satellite team, and it was almost a given.
Yet Davies can withdraw from the WSBK with his head held high. Although he never won the title, he won 32 races, placing him seventh in the championship’s all-time winning tally and 99 podiums. And, with 28 victories for Ducati, it is firmly established alongside Carl Fogarty and Troy Bayliss as one of the greatest production bikes from manufacturer Borgo Panigale.
The only thing standing between Davies and the multiple titles that a runner with a CV of his quality deserves was the runner born eight days before him in February 1987: Jonathan Andrew Rea.
Davies had the monumental misfortune that his rise to coincide with that of Rea, arguably the greatest rider in WSBK history with six titles (and more) aboard the all-conquering Kawasaki. Davies was second on three of those occasions, so take Ulsterman out of the equation and Davies matches Bayliss’ spoils of three titles.
In fact, if Davies had existed in earlier times, or even if he had just managed to get his big break a little earlier, he almost certainly would have won the championship. In that regard, he can be compared to a rider like Max Biaggi in MotoGP, or even Mikko Hirvonen in WRC: extremely good, but not as good as the dominant guy at the time.
Davies’ route to the top was a lot less straightforward than Rea’s. While the latter made his full-time WSBK debut in 2009, Davies was completing a three-year stint off the beaten track in America, where he had moved towards the end of 2006 after five largely unsuccessful seasons wrestling the odds in the United States. lower ranks. from the grand prix racing paddock.
After being selected by Triumph for a full World Supersport season in 2010, Davies demonstrated his potential the following year by winning a dominant title before moving on to the WSBK in 2012 and claiming a rare private victory over his ParkinGO Aprilia.
His performances with ParkinGO essentially prepared him for the rest of his career: he joined BMW in 2013, but with Feel Racing taking over the work of the German marque that season, Davies was in the right place at the right time when Feel was invited to form the new Ducati factory team from 2014 with the 1199 Panigale.
A new project saw Davies establish himself as the team’s lead rider over teammate Davide Giugliano, but it wasn’t until the following year that the Panigale really became a winning bike, as the influence of the Newly recruited general manager Gigi Dall’Igna was felt and Ducati re-established itself as a force to be reckoned with after a few years in the doldrums.
It was just monumental bad timing that Davies and Ducati happened the same year Rea moved to Kawasaki after six seasons wasting his potential aboard substandard Honda machines.
There is an argument that Davies is the best WSBK driver to ever win a title. It’s an honor often bestowed on Noriyuki Haga, whose total of 43 wins comfortably beats Davies. But the Japanese rider had a longer career and wasn’t constantly playing in the shadow of a rider like Rea, and certainly had opportunities to win the championship that he didn’t capitalize on.
Davies, on the other hand, never really got a real taste of the title. The closest he got was in 2016, when a six-game winning streak at the end of the season put him within 43 points of Rea, but the charge came too little, too late. And the irony is that that season, he was denied the place of runner-up in the standings by an exchange between his teammates Kawasaki Rea and Tom Sykes in the last race of the year, a race which drew the wrath of Ducati.
In 2017 and 18 Rea absolutely dominated as Kawasaki overcame the starting issues it faced in 2016 with the update to the ZX10-RR, and in 2019 the introduction of Ducati’s V4 R and l he arrival of Alvaro Bautista in the squad was essentially the start. of the “downward slope” for Davies, culminating in the end of his tenure on the factory team after the 2020 season.
Could Davies have stayed a little longer at the WSBK? Granted, 34 is relatively early to end your career for a Superbike rider – Rea shows few signs of slowing down at the same age, while Alvaro Bautista and Sykes are still going strong at 36 and the man of The oldest state in the field, Leon Haslam, 38, is eager to extend his time in the championship.
There has been talk of Davies potentially switching to Honda in 2022, fueled in large part by his relationship with team manager Leon Camier and his vocal frustration with what he perceived to be Ducati’s lack of effort to improve. the V4 R package. But Davies seemed to exclude himself even before the HRC rushed to sign Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge.
Even if the seat had been offered, no one could have faulted Davies for giving up instead of embarking on the long and difficult task of making the CBR1000RR-R competitive without a guarantee of competitiveness – just look at Bautista, who returns to Ducati after two difficult years at Honda.
After breaking his ribs in a crash in Barcelona, Davies is hoping to be back on his Go Eleven Ducati in time for what looks to be the season finale in Argentina next month. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery, so that one of the greatest runners in WSBK history can get the farewell he deserves.