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MotoGP: Takaaki Nakagami: LCR Rider Leading the Charge for Honda - Everything Moto Racing

MotoGP: Takaaki Nakagami: LCR Rider Leading the Charge for Honda

Following the injury of Marc Marquez, Takaaki Nakagami has been Honda’s stand out rider.

Ever since world champion Marc Marquez was injured by a horrible high side at the exit of Turn 3 in Jerez, subsequently fracturing his right humerus and being ruled out for at least 2-3 more months, one man has been leading the charge for the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) in MotoGP – the quietly spoken, incredibly consistent rider from the LCR satellite team; Japan’s own Takaaki Nakagami.

Nakagami has been involved with Honda since 2018, when he moved up to the premier class to join the Lucio Cecchinello Racing (LCR) Honda satellite outfit, riding a year-old RC213V. Whilst he endured a fairly forgettable 2019 MotoGP season, ending the season in a distant 13th place. Nakagami has enjoyed something of a shocking resurgence in form ever since the Andalusian Grand Prix. Here, he topped Free Practice 4, before qualifying for the race in 8th, within half a second of pole leader Fabio Quartararo. Ultimately, Nakagami finished just outside the podium places in 4th in Andalusia, whilst also scooping up 8th, 6th and 7th in the Czech Republic, Austrian and Styrian GP’s respectively. These top 10 finishes surely come as some surprise, but what is behind Nakagami’s massive upturn in form to become the fastest Honda in the absence of the world champion?

Simply put, the answer actually comes from the world champion himself. Following a distant 10th finish in the season opener at Jerez, Nakagami revealed that he had taken to studying the data of world champion Marquez, who won the 2019 title on the same spec of RC213V currently ridden by Nakagami, who also credited the help of HRC technical manager Takeo Yokoyama in crunching the numbers and analysing the data.

Nakagami expanded on his revelation of an upturn in form prior to the Andalusian GP by saying to media, “Last weekend I struggled…it was a disaster. We had to change completely the setting or riding, [with] many things to understand… Just a little bit different set-up, but I completely changed the riding. I try Marquez’ [style of] riding.”

Nakagami expounded further on this, admitting, “He [Marquez] knows how to use the rear tyre on the braking and how he manages, how to stop the Honda he uses a lot of rear brake, he tries to stop the bike not only with the front tyre, he tries to also stop the bike by [using] the rear. This is the strongest point and I try to copy Marc.”

Nakagami’s self-awareness and self-analysis are very truthful as to revealing why he has drastically improved so much. Even during the race weekend, Nakagami has drastically improved from the corner entry to his apex entrance, this has resulted in his climbing up the time boards week after week. It is clear that Takaaki has adopted the best aspects of Marc Marquez’ riding style and somehow created a much less physically draining, yet more effective race style and management of the RC213V. This fusion of factors has certainly seen noticeable strides in Nakagami’s race pace – he has been a regular top-six threat on every track so far this season, a very impressive feat considering that most bikes on the grid cannot offer that same versatility and variety of performance.

In conclusion to the quite stunning rise of Takaaki Nakagami this season, it is clear that his humility and self-awareness has only acted to his benefit – his willingness to look at what others are doing right and to try to adapt that to his own game shows an impressive modesty on Nakagami’s part. This, coupled with Takaaki’s willingness to put the time into the numbers crunching and research has resulted in massive dividends being paid with regards to his impressive consistency and increase in lap pace this season.

Another interesting question this versatility of form throws up is whether HRC were possibly wrong to overlook Takaaki for the Repsol Honda Factory seat at the expense of KTM’s Pol Espargaro. Only time and further races will tell, but the immediate future bodes very well for Japan’s MotoGP son.

Featured image – LCR Honda

Written by Keelin McNamara

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