Whilst the battle raged on in the Italian heat at the front of the MotoGP™ field, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) scorched to his best ever premier class result, with a fifth position at the Gran Premio D’Italia Oakley. In a race which saw him charge ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL), Nakagami was able to get his first top five of his premier class career, whilst making it the first top five for a Japanese rider in MotoGP™ since Katsuyuki Nakasuga’s podium in Valencia, 2012.
Settling down in to an early rhythm and continuing his strong weekend, Nakagami got a great start from tenth on the grid, up to sixth on the opening lap. He momentarily dropped back to eighth place but recovered, picking off riders one-by-one and passing his teammate on Lap 14, elevating him into sixth place. A crash for Miller promoted the 27-year-old to fifth, where he stayed until the chequered flag.
“I’m pretty happy about this result. All weekend we’ve been strong,” began the former Moto2™ race winner. “Yesterday in qualifying I made some little mistakes and it was a fourth row. After the start, I had a strong race from the beginning. This is a weak point for me because always after the start I drop places, and in the middle of the race to the end I catch the group but it’s always too late. This time, I tried to change the lines a little bit and tried as hard as I can to follow them and it was a great race.
“All the race I tried to keep the pace but, in the end, I couldn’t follow the top group, but it was a good fight until the end. I was at the limit at the end because Maverick pushed a lot at the end but finally we managed to do our best result and the second Honda, so an amazing result.”
Nakagami is not on the latest spec Honda either, with those bikes being rode by Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) finishing behind him, with only Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) placing ahead.
“I know that all of the practice if I’m alone I can easily do a good pace, but I lose a lot of top speed compared to the factory Hondas and Ducatis. I tried to manage it in sector two and sector three, I was really strong compared to all the guys, so I tried to follow them as much as possible. It was tough, I really struggled on the straight, but a great result.
“I will try to keep this position and a good position in the World Championship. Of course, it’s not easy to get this position but we’ll never give up. Last year we struggled a lot in our first year, but we never gave up. This year we are quite strong, I know I’m good at this track as I like the fast corners but Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya is another chance because it’s like Mugello.”
With Takaaki Nakagami taking his first top five, his next step will be to secure his first podium finish. Can he achieve that in Spain in two weeks’ time?