WorldSBK commentator Steve English takes a look at the Brit’s chances as we head to a favourite track of his
Is Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) stuck in the Hotel California or is he at the Overlook Hotel? That’s the million-dollar question as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship heads to Spain for Round 3 of the 2019 season. Can be find his form and check in to the podium club at MotorLand?
The Welshman has been the King of Aragon in the past, with seven wins at the Spanish circuit but now he faces his biggest challenge in years: finding a way to beat rookie and team-mate Alvaro Bautista.
Winning all six races this year, Bautista is riding with tremendous confidence and he’s found a way to make the Ducati Panigale V4 R work in a way that no other rider can. It looks like a massive wall to climb, but luckily for Davies the title fight is heading to his favourite circuit.
Davies’ style clicked at Aragon while riding a Supersport machine and it’s transitioned to a Superbike. Speaking in the past, he said that the key to a strong lap at Aragon isn’t about being fast in any particular area. Instead, it’s about patience. That trait that is definitely a virtue for most riders, but with so many corners leading into one another at Aragon, one adage is very true: “slow is fast.”
Aragon rewards experience and consistency. Hitting your markers and not pushing too hard too soon is how you’ll set your fastest times.
In the past the British rider has found a way to win more races and have more podium finishes than anyone at the 5km circuit. It might have been a miserable start to the season, but there is light at the end of the tunnel for Davies. Having been injured in pre-season testing and having struggled for form at Phillip Island, we saw shoots of life in Thailand. Despite only scoring three points in three races, he has made a big step forward. A crash, a red flag and a technical problem muddied the waters of his Thai form. On Sunday, Davies was fast in the warm-up and could have finished inside the top five in both Sunday races.
That would have offered proof of his progress with the bike. There’s so much for Davies to learn - a new bike with a whole new crew - that it was always going to take time. It’s been a surprise to see Bautista outperform him so thoroughly over the last two rounds, but after Buriram the Ducati riders had a two-day test at Aragon. Times weren’t released but sources within the paddock have said that Davies continued to make a step forward, and while he still wasn’t as fast as Bautista, he was in the ballpark. Being in the ballpark might be all he needs at Aragon.
In Hotel California the protagonist in the song is found driving through the desert. The night is drawing in and they have to find somewhere to stay. It’s a song of naivety. Maybe coming into this season, we were naive in understanding the scale of the task facing Ducati riders, but now Davies is gaining experience with the new machine and he is closing on meeting his own expectations for the season. Heaven turned to hell, but the central character found a way to learn about their situation and make progress to finding a way out.
This weekend at Aragon will be a real test for Davies to see if the lessons of Thailand and the two-day test have been carried forward. Don’t rule him out.
How will Davies fare at one of his favourite circuits? Find out as the Motocard Aragon Round gets underway this weekend on WorldSBK VideoPass.