Davies angry at Rea as WorldSBK riders revolt and refuse to race

Chaz Davies slams the FIM for allowing WorldSBK to race at San Juan Villicum as six riders refuse to start; Critcises Jonathan Rea for reneging on promise

Chaz Davies Jonathan Rea

Chaz Davies has slammed the decision by the FIM to allow San Juan Villicum to go ahead with its round of the 2019 WorldSBK Championship after several riders withdrew prior to the first race due to track conditions, before pointing a finger of blame at Jonathan Rea for reneging on an agreement to pull out too.

The Welshman was one of six riders who’d refuse to race on the grounds the circuit wasn’t safe enough to compete on. He was joined on the sidelines by Leon Camier and Eugene Laverty, who are carrying existing injuries, Marco Melandri, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Sandro Cortese, while Loris Baz was already out after suffering a wrist injury in a crash during qualifying

In a heated discussion with race director Gregorio Lavilla in the run up to the race, most riders expressed their anger at the state of the circuit which has been beset by layers of dust across the circuit, leaving a slim racing line.  Moreover, rising temperatures would see oil come to the surface too, with riders believing the conditions to be too ‘dangerous’.

When interviewed on Eurosport’s coverage, Davies did not hold back in his criticism of the FIM to approve homologation of the circuit on Wednesday, accusing it of knowing it didn't come up to standard and continued to plug ahead despite almost universally negative feedback.

“There was no outcome [from the meeting],” he said. “For a few months we’ve know the situation at San Juan and on Wednesday night the circuit was homologated even though by admission from the FIM they said the circuit didn’t come up to homologation specification. 

“The temperature has gone up and up today and we felt as riders, 80 or 90% riders, before the race all agreed that it was incredibly risky to go and do it."

Chaz Davies takes aim at Jonathan Rea for going back on promise

However, Davies reserved particular condemnation for WorldSBK champion Rea – the only WorldSBK rider in the riders’ safety commission – after he claimed he wouldn’t race, only for him to go ahead and do so. 

The Welshman believes had he not lined up others would have followed to ensure the race had to be called off.

“Unfortunately, there is always pressure from outside, from team managers, from manufacturers, from certain manufacturers but not here luckily, to go out there and race,” he continued. “Some people have still got things to fight for and in this case some of us stuck together and even the world champion, two minutes before the pit lane opened he said that he wasn’t happy to go and race. 

“He had massive pressure from his team to go and do it, and he wasn’t happy to go and do it and yet he has lined up. He is worth a lot more than all of us, he speaks for 10 or 15 of us and I am super disappointed in that.”

Going on to say WorldSBK shouldn’t be racing in Argentina at all, Davies says the sport is risking the safety of its riders by making such decisions.

“We shouldn’t be in this situation coming into a circuit in 2019 with conditions like this. We shouldn’t be here full stop and the pressure it then puts on you to go out there in risky conditions is massive. Nothing is bigger than safety in this sport as it is dangerous enough. Loris Baz has just gone home with a broken wrist and we saw that coming already yesterday. It is a crap situation.“

Revolting riders cast shadow over WorldSBK relations 

Davies could get into trouble for the rather clear accusation he has made about the FIM in homologating the San Juan Villicum circuit despite it not passing its safety inspection.

However, what Davies has said in public is almost certainly a view shared amongst most riders. Indeed, though 12 riders took to the grid - enough to allow it to go ahead - even those that did take the green light have been very vocal in their criticism of circuit conditions, such as Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark, Toprak Razgatlioglu and even Rea himself.

To defend Rea's position, it was noted that Leon Haslam also refused to race initially before being told he was contracted to do so by Kawasaki, something the championship-winning rider is likely to have been told too. It's also worth pointing out that Kawasaki is still in a tight fight with Ducati over the manufacturers' title and would have been damaged by Bautista's eventual win, so it's perhaps no coincidence all five Kawasaki riders were on the grid come race start time.

Then again, though Rea is certainly not 'bigger' that the championship, he does speak for them and his late decision to renege on an agreement will be a bitter pill for the strikers as he was probably the only chance they had of holding rank.

No-one can force a rider to race if they feel unsafe to do so and you can understand the motivation for Camier and Laverty, given the serious injuries they are still feeling, while Melandri can be excused given he is retiring in two weeks' time.

Amid all this, it's a huge embarassment for the FIM and Dorna at the venue which attracted the largest crowds of any other in 2018, though the grandstands looked fairly sparse today.

Mercifully no-one crashed in the race - and there have been only two in the Superbike class overall this weekend as the riders tread tentatively - but regardless, there will be some difficult questions to answer in the coming days and weeks for all concerned.