THE New Year brings a big new challenge for Britain's most promising young motorcyclist, writes Glyn Wictome.

As earlier reported in The Hereford Times, Chaz Davies, from Kinsham, near Presteigne, has signed up with the Aprilia Germany Race Team to compete in the 250cc World Championship and will become youngest competitors to race in the series.

Having just completed a debut season racing in the 125cc World Championship series, the 15-year-old pupil at John Beddoes School will step up to the more powerful machines which generate almost 100 horse power and are capable of speeds up to 175 mph.

Davies did well in the 2002 championship with a best finish of 11th in the Portuguese Grand Prix and an overall placing of 28th in the final merit table.

He received a warm welcome at all the venues and reckons that the experience he gained will stand him in good stead for the challenging year ahead.

Although he has not previously ridden a 250cc machine, Davies relishes the prospect and said: "I'm delighted to be riding with an experienced team. They have a proven track record and are looking to help me as much as possible."

Aprilia Germany is not a works team and Davies will be competing against world giants Honda and Yamaha, as well as the Italian-based Aprilia team.

With events taking place in Japan, South Africa, Australia and most European countries, Davies, who will be 16 on February 10, will have to juggle his school work and summer examinations to fit in with his racing schedule.

This starts with three days testing in Jerez, Spain, from January 17-19, and the first world championship event takes place in Japan in April.

He knows what to expect because last season he was the youngest British rider to compete in a world championship and the 125cc class follows the same circuit as the 250cc.

This challenge to the elite of motorcycling is a family affair with his father, Peter, accompanying Chaz to all the events.

Although his new team will provide the bikes and equipment - and limited expenses - Davies would welcome sponsorship, particularly from local companies, to help him in his quest to be at the top of the world bike racing scene.