Superbike ace Chaz Davies is on course to become Wales’ next sporting superstar after a spectacular start to the season.
The 29-year-old from Knighton, Powys, currently sits second in the World Superbike Championship standings behind fellow Brit and defending Champion Jonathan Rea.
After a steady rise to the top, Davies ended 2015 in blistering form to finish second behind Rea in the title race.
Having made his breakthrough and emerged amongst the front-runners in the premier class for two-wheeled production bikes, he has certainly picked up where he left off.
Davies’ dominant double at Aragon, Spain in Round Three of the Championship at the beginning of April signalled his title credentials as he cruised to wins in both races.
Despite currently trailing Rea in the title race, Davies still has his eyes firmly set on achieving glory to become the first Welshman to ever win a World Superbike Championship. Should he achieve such a feat, it would undoubtedly see him etch his name amongst Wales’ leading sporting stars.
Davies has already tasted glory, winning the 2011 World Supersport Championship which earned him the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year title. He has gradually progressed to become one of the front-runners since moving up to the Superbike class, with the switch to Ducati in 2014 paying dividends. For Davies, it has certainly been a convoluted and winding route to the top level of the two-wheeled world.
He burst onto the scene as the youngster ever winner of a British Championship race, climbing to the top step of the podium in the 125cc class aged just 14 years and 5 months. By 2002 he had become the youngest rider to ever complete a full World Championship season having graduated to the 125cc Grand Prix class.
During that season, Davies lined up alongside the likes of Dani Pedrosa and three-time MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorezno who have both spent the last decade at the top level of the two-wheeled world. However, after, reaching the 250cc class in 2003 and becoming the youngest-ever points scorer in the class aged 16, the Welshman saw his progress stall.
His Aprilla team struggled over the next three years, and having encountered sponsorship issues he was forced out of the sport for the bulk of the 2006 season. At that stage, Davies’ promising young career could well have been over, yet he made the bold move to travel across the pond to the United States to compete in the AMA Supersport Championship.
This move proved the springboard for the biggest weekend of his career so far as he was handed a shock late call-up to Moto GP as an injury replacement for Alex Hoffman at Laguna Seca in 2007. His impressive display earned him a handful more appearances before the end of the season and left him hungry for more action at the top level.
Following four seasons of development in the States, Davies finally was handed his chance to return to prominence on the World stage with a switch to the World Supersport Championship in the final three races of the 2009 campaign. A fourth-place finish on his debut was enough to earn him a full-time team place for the following year, and the rest, as they say is history.
A solid 2010 season was followed by a dominant 2011 as he raced to the World Supersport title in comfortable fashion, earning his long-awaited promotion to World Superbikes the very next year. Fast forward five years and he is widely being tipped to be right in the mix for the top prize, something he has already proved with his bright start to the season.
Regardless of whether he manages to earn the World Superbike Championship, Davies has already established himself as one of the top characters in the sport. He has spoken of his desire to earn a switch back to the showpiece MotoGP Championship next year and aim to challenge himself on the biggest stage of them all.
Whether or not he achieves his dream, there is no doubt Davies is fast becoming another Welsh sporting treasure thanks to his daring style and never-say-die attitude which has earned him a wealth of admirers.
He was due to be back in action as the Championship travelled to Imola, Italy this weekend before heading to Malaysia in a fortnight. Yet it is from May 27-29 that Davies will face his biggest weekend of the season as he flies the Welsh flag on British soil at the Donington Park circuit in Derbyshire.
Davies isn’t the only Brit to dominate the Superbike scene. Northern Irishman, Jonathan Rea has been a force during the past two years with Englishman, Tom Sykes – a former world champion and Rea’s teammate also up at the business end of the championship. Talks for a Welsh race-circuit are beginning to dip and dive with Ebbw Vale pencilled in for a potential location. Davies will no doubt relish the opportunity to race in his home country, whether it be on the World Superbike grid or in MotoGP.
If Davies does go on to win the Superbike title, a call-up to MotoGP would certainly be on the cards with the current British riders struggling to keep tabs with the Spanish and Italian talent. Cal Crutchlow has concerns with his consistency, as does Bradley Smith. Danny Kent stormed to Moto3 glory last season and he is certainly one to look out for in the future, but for Davies at least, if he can keep on Rea’s tail throughout this season, a ride on the Blue Riband grid will no doubt beckon.
Davies certainly flies the flag for Welsh motorbikes, with Ian Lougher the only other big name in the sport. Cardiff-born Lougher, is a 10-time Isle of Man TT winner, who is this year coming out of retirement to race around the daunting TT course. The 52-year-old, who claimed his wins during the nineties and early noughties, will be on board a two-stroke 500cc Suter machine which will face off against the four-stroke Superbikes. Lougher probably won’t be vying for more TT glory, with a top 20 finish a likely target for him, as well as working as a coach for newcomers.