In WorldSBK race one at Laguna, Aruba Ducati’s Chaz Davies scored his first podium finish since the sprint race at Imola in May, and his first full distance podium since Aragon – way back in April that one.
What brought around the transformation? A better set-up, simple as that. And, bizarrely, his podium came using the Pirelli SCX rear tyre, which is designed for short distance races, not 25 laps of one of the gnarliest venues imaginable.
Davies loves Laguna, and looked like he may be on for a big one after finishing Superpole second on Saturday afternoon – and by just 0.009 seconds from pole man Rea.
But race over 25 on an X rear? “I was feeling brave!” he said, not then knowing that two others gave it a go, Sykes and Laverty.
It did, however, tail off a lot in the second half and hence Rea ran away to win. “It tailed off more than what I feared. I put ten laps on it yesterday, and ten consistent, not slow laps, and another ten on one today. I think that accumulation of heat and wear on it, at race pace, was just a bit too much.
I felt the first drop on it after eight laps, then another drop about eight laps later, and then in the last laps it was like, ‘ooof, she’s gawn…!’ I do not know if the normal tyre would have been enough because I felt like we were struggling in a few areas. I am not sure a normal tyre would have been enough.”
Davies found a breakthrough on Friday, after realising that what they had before then was simply not enough. “We made a big change after FP1 and the bike was immediately better. To try to target where I have been struggling generally in most of the season, and just hone in on that a bit more. It seemed to do the trick, or at least get us somewhere.”
That somewhere was the podium in second place, but it did not get him to within the orbit of Rea at the end, even if he was right with him and trying to pass at one stage. “Compared to Jonathan I felt like we were just a bit front heavy today,” said Davies.
“I was chasing the front a lot in some of the more flowy parts of the track. I felt good in those parts yesterday but with that temperature and the race conditions I was struggling to get it turned quite well enough in the middle of the more flowy parts of the track. And even just get it stopped a little bit. In the later laps, because of the tyre, it got a bit more nervous and the tyre was kicking back all over the place.”
The bikes always move at Laguna, by the nature of the track, even the best set-up ones. But Davies denied what other riders have said, that it is such a riders’ track that you can overcome bike problems, in some places. “There is no such thing as a riders’ track really. They are all riders’ tracks. It is the same as saying that wet weather is the great leveller. There are no facts behind things like that.
If the set-up is right the set-up is right. If it isn’t it isn’t. What I am saying is that if the set-up is not right for me today I would not be here. There is only a limit to what you can do. You can ride around things and use your strengths in other places but yeah, I think the set-up was OK today and it let me make that step forward.”
The exact nature of Davies’ machine changes are, as ever, off limits, but he did say. “It was chassis initially and then when that was in the ballpark we started working on the electronics a little bit more. Just fine tuning.”
Davies benefitted from his ‘X’ tyre for a while on Saturday, and it got him that important podium in the final round before the summer break. But it did not convince him enough to use it again on Sunday. “Not for the long race, no. I had not used the X in a full race until Saturday. I could have been on the podium with the other tyre choice, for sure.”