Yesterday, Kawasaki held an open house at their headquarters here in Southern California and provided the media the chance to interview some of their racers. I spoke with a new member of the Attack Kawasaki Team, Chaz Davies. Chaz is an extremely talented 21 year old from the UK who was awarded the win at the Daytona 200 earlier this year following the disqualification of a Honda rider. Here is the interview.
BW: You’ve been racing since you were about 8 years old, right?
CD: Pretty much about eight years old, yeah.
BW: Did you really want to go racing at 8? Did your family push you into it?
CD: I was encouraged to get into it by my Dad, but not in a high-pressure kind of way. I enjoyed it, obviously. My Dad owned a go-kart circuit, so it gave me something to focus on, and it was also a sort of family outing on the weekend.
BW: You’ve won various awards for achievements at a young age, mostly on small-displacement two-stroke machines. Were you deliberately on track for a MotoGP career?
CD: It was always the dream to be in Grand Prix races. Whether it be 125 or 250 or MotoGP bikes, to be competitive in MotoGP was the ultimate goal.
BW: I was a little puzzled when you turned down the offer from Ducati to be a test rider in 2008 for the Kawasaki 600 FX ride in AMA Pro racing. Wouldn’t a job at Ducati have taken you more in the direction of the MotoGP dream?
CD: It would have been a job working alongside the Ducati MotoGP team, but it was actually a Bridgestone test role. A great job, for sure. I’d learn the bikes, learn the tires, test for the world championship team. But, at the same time, the way I looked at it, I was having a lot of fun racing last year. I didn’t race the year before, you know, in 2006. So last year was a big improvement. And I knew that Marco Melandri has a contract for a few years, Stoner has at least two or three years, and then there are two new riders in the satellite team, and they both have contracts too. There’s really no way in there, and I didn’t want to be a test rider for two years. That’s a long time not to be racing. Too long, I felt, not to be in a competitive environment. I wanted to keep racing, and keep having fun.
BW: How have you found racing a 600 Formula Xtreme bike compared to the two-stroke GP bikes, and to the 800 MotoGP bike for that matter?
CD: They’re all a bit different, of course. The 125s are light and nimble, and have massive corner speeds. The 250s are somewhat similar, but faster. They’re still light, there’s good power, and they handle really well. They’re the ideal race bike, I think. The MotoGP bike is a beast. I never really felt like I got fully on top of that situation, and there wasn’t enough time for me to form a relationship to my liking. The 600 here was something new, you know, it’s only my second year on a four-stroke bike that size. But the Kawasaki comes from Japan almost like a race bike in standard form. It’s small and the gearbox is brilliant. It’s about as good as you can make a 600, I think.
BW: Your timing is just about perfect, isn’t it? Your second year in Formula Xtreme and the new owners of the AMA race series decide to make it the premium class next year.
CD: Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how it all works out. The structure sounds quite complicated, in terms of horsepower limits and rider weights, but it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds in the next month or so.
BW: How did you feel about the Daytona win coming as a kind of afterthought, you know, when the stewards disqualified Josh Hayes’ Honda? You didn’t even get to stand on the top step of the box.
CD: It was a bit of an anti-climax. At the time it was great to be second on the podium, but it would have been great for me, and for the team, to have been on the top at the victory ceremony. It was a strange series of events.
BW: How do you view the Hondas this year? They seem to be fairly strong, don’t they? Where do you see that bike’s strengths in relation to the Kawasaki? What do you have to do to win on a regular basis?
CD: Last weekend’s bike (at Barber Motorsports Park) was good enough for a win. But I made that mistake. I was about to pass Cardenas, and moved onto a part of the track I don’t usually use. As I moved back onto the line, I must have hit a bump or something, because it made the back of the bike kick, and then it came really sideways. I think it hit the lock, and then it snapped straight. It upset me and I ran wide. There wasn’t much I could do after that, but I hung on for third. Still, I think we can match Honda. They have their strong points and we have ours. It’s difficult to distinguish where they’re faster and where we’re faster. But, you know, we had a terrible test at Barber last month, and I was a second or a second-and-a-half off the pace we ran in the race. Now we go back to tracks I think I’m good at, where I think we have a good chance.
BW: Good luck for the rest of the season.