Phillip Island is by no means the best WorldSBK circuit for Chaz Davies and his Aruba Ducati Panigale, but in testing, 11th was a real surprise to some onlookers. And an unhappy turn of affairs for the Welshman who says he needs more torque to compensate for lost RPM.
It was not the best he has ever been able to ride, as he explained to bikesportnews.com at the track: “This test had just been nothing special really,” said Davies. “Not really finding improvements where I need to find them to improve our lap time a bit. I just feel a little bit held back at the minute, but I am still optimistic that it can still all come together for the weekend.”
Davies has also exhausted almost everything he had to try. “We have basically tested everything, maybe not one or two small things, but pretty much everything has been tested.”
It is not just one sector of the circuit that is holding Davies or his bike up, it is several areas so far. “I think it is a little bit everywhere,” said Davies. “Some places on track we feel OK. Then other places we are struggling a little bit. I have had tests like this before at PI and I have always picked it up come race time, or at least improved come race time. Not won races but got near the podium. We are still further off than I would ideally like to be, but we will just have to see on the weekend. We have done a lot on used tyres but not a long run. We mostly stayed on one tyre on the final day to have a consistent base. We did not want to change the base too much today, and confuse ourselves.”
The big 2018 technical problem for Ducati is, according to some, gearing. And making the reduced-rev 2018 V-twin engine work properly through the gears, with a much changed torque curve.
“I think it will be, yes (gearing),” agreed Davies. “Over the tracks that we’ve tested at, it hasn’t altered our pattern at all, gear wise. I think over the course of the season I think it will be the thing that probably gets a bit tricky at certain tracks.”
The rev limit for Ducati is lower in 2018 than before, and it has a marked effect when riding, said Davies. “It definitely stops on top. It is like somebody had switched it off when it still wants to go. Having said that, our speed is still OK, not really too unhappy with our speed. But the thing is that with our bike people say, ‘Oh. It’s a Ducati it has so much torque.’ But it could not be more opposite than that. We have a good top end on the Panigale but as is always the way, the bottom end has been sacrificed, and honestly it is not somewhere where we have focused on that much.
“We always try to run it in the thick of the power, where the thing feels best and works best. Now obviously you lose that bit on the top you have to compromise through that rev range. I just say to them, ‘I need more torque, find a way.’ I do not need to know the technicalities about it. I think we have got something coming for the weekend again to try and help us.”
Davies has not only bike issues to fix, but he has had recent problems with his body, after a big crash at Jerez at the end of 2017.
“My own condition is actually better over last ten days or so,” affirmed Davies. “Pretty much since our team launch things have got a bit better. Obviously a bit too late, but better late than never. There is no one area of my body that is holding me back, not really. I am ready to go. I feel a bit better on the bike but I was not in perfect condition at Jerez and Portimao.”