FONTANA, CA, FEB 2: Chaz Davies knows how difficult it's going to be to defend his Daytona 200 title. The Welshman signed on with the KWS Motorsports/Millennium Technologies Factory Aprilia team just over a month before the season-opener and a few weeks after testing the RSV1000R at Roebling Road Raceway in Bloomingdale, Georgia. The test was an eye-opener for Davies, who’s ridden a variety of motorcycles in his career, but never a V-twin. The Aprilia requires a different approach than the inline 600’s Davies rode last year and that he'll face off against in the Daytona SportBike class. Those bikes were more dependent on corner speed, while the Aprilia is more of a point-and-shoot weapon, with massive torque. Once it gets a head of steam it should be fine, which is why Daytona could be an auspicious debut. But there’s plenty of work just to get to the race and Kevin Hunt and the crew in South Carolina are working hard to not only get the machine race ready, but to build the necessary quick-change gear for the one-off Daytona 200. “It’s such a different situation this year,” Davies said, comparing it to 2008, when he was finished second, but was given the 200 victory after Erion Honda’s Josh Hayes was disqualified. “It’s kind of like starting from scratch again, if that makes sense. I am going there to defend it, but because everything is so different with the rules and everything like that, it’s kind of starting from scratch and…more about everybody finding their feet over the weekend.” Davies came within weeks of not having a job this year, despite working hard at running down leads. He know there are a lot of riders out of work, “so definitely could be one of them quite easily. So yeah, it’s really nice to have the opportunity to go racing once more.” Davies was looking for work during the winter and hoped to stay in the U.S. “I had a couple things going over the winter,” he said. “One, which looked highly promising, then in the end it turned out it didn’t happen. Then there was a couple of other things and I just wasn’t getting a good feeling from it. And I’d rather have something concrete than hang out for something else. “So I got in touch with Chip (Spaulding of KWS Motorsports) myself and just kind of asked him what his plans were and that was at quite an early stage. He was still unsure of where they were going. They knew that they had the deal, but there was a few other things that they had to figure out.” There were two options in British Superbike and a couple in World Supersport, but his preferred choice “would have been one of the ones in AMA, but in the end that filtered out.” Last year, Davies rode the Attack Kawasaki to a joint fifth in Formula Xtreme and sixth in the Supersport championships, ut he never felt there was an option to return to Attack. The Kawasaki teams, both Attack and the factory team, were quiet over the winter, with only Roger Lee Hayden under contract. Jamie Hacking wasn’t signed until yesterday. “Kawasaki, they really have had no news all winter,” Davies said. “I don’t think even Attack knew what they were doing until that announcement was made a few weeks ago. so I don’t know there was a chance to go back there. Everything’s in that much of a mess at the minute that there probably wouldn’t have been now, but I’m not too sure about that now. I think everything was so messy that they were just, Kawasaki weren’t sure what they were doing, but now they know.” As for his first impression of the Aprilia, Davies said, the “bike has handlebars and two wheels really, but as soon as I got going I realized some of the strong points.” The engine was configured for Daytona SportBike rules. They were using the spec Sunoco fuel and spec Dunlop Buffalo DOT tires. “So we were basically running probably 80% of everything we will be. “It was interesting. It was different. I’d never ridden a twin before. So that’s the first time I’ve ridden a proper twin. The tires do feel different, a little bit different anyway. But the bike was, it was about as expected. I’ve been used to riding 600’s, so it was always going to feel heavy. The torque’s right there, it’s got a lot of torque. “It was difficult to say, because it was a session day at Roebling Road, so without being at a track that I was really familiar with, I can’t say I really rode the bike in anger that day. It was more of just feel it out and get used to the twin power. Give my feedback as best as I could, because we don’t have a lot of time to improve what we’ve got from now until Daytona. There’s minimal time. So it was more about not going absolutely as quick as I could, but quickly figuring out what we could do to try to turn this bike into a race bike to race against 600’s. Yeah, first impressions are about as expected, really. “It’s going to be a bit more point and shoot, this one, because there’s a lot of weight to stop. And I’m going to have make use of where the bike’s strong points are, that is getting off the corners. That track wasn’t really a braking track, so I’m yet to see how hard I can go in anywhere. Only really the first corner you have to brake at. Definitely, I think I’m just going to have make use of its strong points, which are it’s torque, and it’s going to be kind of similar to what (Larry) Pegram did as far as like for the last couple of years, how he rode.” There will be tracks, like Auto Club Speedway, that favor the Aprilia “and other places where the 600’s are able to keep momentum. It’s going to be interesting. We’ve just got to try and work on the strong points of the bike and then try adapt it as best as possible at places like Miller or wherever the 600’s can really keep up their momentum. That’s going to be quite important to try to and adapt this bike to somewhere we have to run corner speed and stuff like that.”

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Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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