So near, yet so far | Why WorldSBK bridesmaid Chaz Davies will remain a great

Chaz Davies may not have quite loosened Jonathan Rea's grip on the WorldSBK Championship but the thrice runner-up remains one of the series' historic greats

Chaz Davies - Ducati WorldSBK

Chaz Davies has announced his retirement from motorsport at the still limbre age of 34-years old after deciding his latest injury woe whould be his last following a long career that has spanned two decades.

Though the Welshman might be - unfairly - remembered as the rider that couldn’t quite loosen Jonathan Rea’s iron-like grip on the WorldSBK Championship, finishing runner-up to the Ulsterman on three occasions, he ends his career as statistically one of the most successful to have ever competed.

Indeed, it took a long time for Davies to find his stride on the world stage, adopting a less conventional US-centric route to the top than most, one that nonetheless garnered him a reputation in the early years as a rider that had potential to race with the best given the right opportunity.

It’s easily forgotten now but Davies has competed in MotoGP, making three surprise starts with Pramac Ducati during the 2007 season aged only 20.

That opportunity was borne from a chance substitute outing at Laguna Seca, Davies earning the nod through his participation in the US-based AMA Supersport Championship, which he’d joined after four solid seasons in the 125/250GP World Championship, peaking with 13th overall in the latter in 2005.

That outing at Laguna Seca earned praise for his quick adaptation to earn him two more outings on the Desmoscedici at the end of the season, qualifying within a second of regular team-mate and race winner Alex Barros.

MotoGP turn leads to WorldSSP glory

While this didn’t lead to interest from MotoGP teams thereafter, Davies’ profile grew nonetheless, which coupled with a crowning win at the Daytona 200 caught attention of WorldSSP teams, namely Triumph which gave him a shot at the end of the 2009 season.

Finishing fourth on his debut at Imola, it set up a full season campaign in 2010, which yielded four podiums en route to fourth in the standings despite his three-cylinder machine evidently lacking performance versus the might of Honda and Kawasaki.

A switch to Yamaha machinery the following year, however, made Davies the rider to beat with six wins seeing him stroll to a maiden World Championship title and with it a move into the WorldSBK Championship with the same ParkinGO MTC Racing team aboard an Aprilia RSV4.

After a modest start to life on bigger machinery, Davies hit his stride in the middle of the season, picking up a maiden podium at Aragon before claiming a superb first win at the Nurburgring.

It earned him a move to the semi-factory backed GoldBet BMW outfit, where three more wins caught the attention of Ducati, itself preparing for a more concerted title attack after struggling to wring the best from the 1199 Panigale R.

Bridesmaid, never the WorldSBK bride with Ducati

The relationship would yield Davies’ best years in motorsport as he emerged as the only consistent rider to hold Rea and Kawasaki to account, even if the combination of the Ulsterman on the ZX-10RR would prove incredibly hard to unstable.

Still, he was a regular winner and would come very close in 2016 following a run of seven wins from eight races at the end of the year. Ironically, though closer on points to Rea, he would end the year third in the standings after three poorly-timed DNFs mid-year, Davies finishing just behind Tom Sykes as well.

However, Davies’ fortunes dwindled in 2019 on the back of the firm’s move to V4 machinery with its latest generation Superbike, a switch not assisted by the initial runaway success of Alvaro Bautista, even if by the end of the year it was Davies that was arguably the quicker of the two.

He’d suffer similar issues in 2020 though, with Scott Redding’s arrival pinning Davies to a second rider role,  which ultimately led to Ducati opting for youth over experience in 2021 with the promotion of Michael Ruben Rinaldi.

Davies went the other way with GoEleven Ducati but with qualifying proving to be a persistent problem for the Welshman since the move to a more compact Superpole format, he has struggled to muster strong results. With his year already hampered by an ongoing shoulder injury sustained in a crash at Misano, his accident in Barcelona - which led to two broken ribs - has seen him call an end to his career.

Despite not reaching the WorldSBK title, Davies ends his career having accumulated a remarkable tally of 32 wins and 99 podiums over ten seasons.

This places Davies seventh on the all-time list in terms of race wins - one of only two in the top ten not to win the title along with Noriyuki Haga - and ahead of greats including Colin Edwards and Doug Polen.