Ever the methodical thinker and planner in terms of finding set-up, Chaz Davies was faced with the always cold, 50 per cent wet and sometimes very windy WorldSBK tests at Motorland Aragon.
A one time V4R race winner in 2019, Davies is now on a mission to regain his usual status as championship contender, especially after a very troubled winter test season last year.
Of the two days at Motorland Davies, said, “It was all right, although a slow start in the morning because of the weather. We were just getting through some basic test items. Figuring out the stuff that I have been thinking about in the last couple of months, the direction we need to go, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It has been positive in terms of box checking and cancelling some things, seeing some potential; in other things.”
This winter test season is a very different scenario for Davies, after a year racing the fast but fickle V4R, as he has a strong base set-up now, that led to one race win and nine other podium finishes.
“The last five races of the season we barely touched the bike, so we have always got that reference to work from,” said Davies. “It is a base that we need to improve and we need to improve it by a good bit. But at least we know it is not too bad and we could go racing with that tomorrow and probably be all right.
“But the aim this winter is just to try and build on that a little bit, without getting ourselves lost. We want to be carful about what we are doing. Today we did not really try anything major it is just a lot of tiny things that are quite important and make a difference. It will be a whole lot of small marginal gains at the end of the day.”
The only problem in transferring any of the knowledge gleaned at Aragon to next year was the conditions. Davies took the point but also knows that all testing is useful.
“It is a little bit but from that point of view, but also for me, testing is testing,” he said. “You get in that mode where… what is on the line at the end of the day? Not a lot. We are not getting points, and not getting trophies and bonuses or any of the good stuff.
“From a couple of different sides it is tricky to sometimes replicate a race weekend anyway, because in a race weekend it is all out there, and you learn a lot in a race weekend. But the idea is to be methodical and at try and at least take something out of these tests. It is tricky in these cold conditions because we are not used to these sort of conditions.”
Possibly the biggest change for Davies in 2020 will be his new team-mate Scott Redding, who was fastest man over two days at Motorland.
“I think myself and Scott get on pretty good,” said Davies about what he expects form his new team-mate relationship. “For a long time Scott used to come mini-bike racing at my parent’s kart track, so I have known him probably more than 15 years. I enjoy being around him, he is good fun in the garage, and from both sides it does not really affect probably the way we want to beat each other on the track. I think it is going to be a healthy rivalry with Scott, on track, and everything in the garage all stays good. He is certainly a different character to the last team-mate.”
Davies was second quickest on the final day in Motorland, but there was no Jonathan Rea to go for fast times at the end, even with a clear few final hours of track time. Rea left the tests without lapping on the second day, which Davies understood.
“Because he has had years on the bike and knows he can get on the bike and get down to good lap times straight away; and when you have dicey conditions - and somebody said he crashed yesterday as well,” was his summation of a situation that was a surprise to some.
“It was pretty cold today and it is always in the back of your mind. He knows that he could turn up here and if it was race weekend he could be on the pace straightaway. That is when you have that bank of data to rely on; it just makes it a lot easier. I do not think anybody else is in that luxury of a position, really.”