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LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami had never finished a MotoGP™ race inside the top ten prior to the final round of last year but now, less than five months on, the Japansese rider has put a string of three consecutive top ten finishes together that see him sit seventh in the World Championship.
The 27-year-old has battled with the leading riders at the Qatar and Argentine Grands Prix, which saw him pick up a ninth-place finish under the floodlights in Losail and a seventh-place finish in South America. However, the two-time Moto2™ race winner admits he “had to give up” when trying to close in on the podium fight at Termas de Rio Hondo on Sunday as the soft rear tyre he opted for “was completely finished”.
“The race was quite tough because I chose the soft compound on the rear,” said Nakagami, reflecting on the 25-lap race. “I understand the beginning of the race was really important to get a good position, so I was thinking I’m able to go faster but unfortunately I didn’t feel the grip well. From beginning to the last laps, I struggled a lot to find the grip.”
Nakagami was hanging on to the coattails of the battle for second place throughout the race but was never able to get involved in the fight, much to his frustration: “It was really tough to follow them, but I tried not to make mistakes and tried to match their pace. I saw that Valentino and Dovi were fighting for the podium, I think I was less than two seconds behind, I wanted to catch them but, in the end, I had to give up as the tyre was completely finished.”
Nevertheless, following Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crashing out on the final lap, Nakagami would finish seventh, a career best premier class finish in dry conditions, which would see him close to within three points of his teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) in the MotoGP™ World Championship standings; something he says he’s “really happy” about.
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In 15 mins: Argentina Grand Prix MotoGP™ highlights
The LCR Honda Idemitsu man moves on to the Circuit of the Americas with realistic hopes of finishing inside a MotoGP™ top five for the first time, and after finishing on the podium in Austin in his final year of Moto2™ who’s to doubt him.
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