At this weekend’s HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland both Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) are proving MotoGP™ riders – and motorcycle racers in general – are made of incredibly tough stuff.
Nakagami’s high-speed Turn 8 Assen incident with Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) left the Japanese rider with ligament damage to his left ankle and a knock to his shoulder, with Nakagami barely able to put any weight on the ankle that he uses to change gear. Meanwhile, teammate Crutchlow arrived at the Sachsenring on Thursday having damaged his right anterior cruciate ligament, while also suffering a small fracture to the top of his tibia following a cycling mishap.
With both riders far from fully fit, they’d be forgiven for having quiet weekends ahead of focusing on recovering for the second half of the season during the summer break that looms on the horizon. However, that’s been far from the case. A heroic FP4 effort from Nakagami that saw him claim P6 was then followed by a meteoric Q1 session, as we witnessed the number 30 steal a Q2 spot at the expense of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).
“Of course, today was a really tough day,” reflected Nakagami. “This morning I was feeling good, better than yesterday, but during FP3 I felt really bad at one moment and the situation after that has been a disaster. I cannot walk anymore and I cannot press on it during riding. this is a big problem because this track changes direction a lot and I lose a lot of time in the movements. I have a lot of pain.
“In FP4, the moment when I moved out of the track the first time I couldn’t move anything or even change gear. At that moment I thought I’d have to retire because there was no point but the doctor really helped, to take off all the tape and every to make it more flexible. This is getting better but still the pain is incredible, I’m in unbelievable pain. I didn’t expect to get through to Q2 because Q1 was really tough and in this condition I didn’t expect to get to Q2 but I never gave up. For me it was a surprise.”
Whatever they were serving for lunch in the LCR hospitality clearly worked. Nakagami went on to out-qualify Rossi and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), with teammate Crutchlow powering his way to a second row start in P6. The Briton has only been outside the top ten in one session at the Sachsenring this weekend – FP4 – as he shows no signs of injury while out on track.
“Yeah, I’m happy enough. I qualified there in Assen, sixth there and sixth here,” said Crutchlow, who – like everyone else – is contemplating which tyres to use for Sunday’s race. “I think that’s about our pace this weekend, it’s going to be a really long difficult race and obviously the heat today didn’t help anybody’s tyres, but overall we’re happy enough. I’ve no idea (about tyres for the race), I used the really used rear tyre in FP4 and it was very difficult to manage, but that’s what it’s going to be like in the race.
“Marc (Marquez) has the pace compared to everybody else, we can see that, but we just don’t know how our rear tyre performed in that session because we used it from the morning. We’ll see, I believe that we have the pace to do a good job tomorrow, potentially fight for the podium or potentially fight for tenth. It’s always a good race here and a real battle.”
Can LCR’s gladiators battle their way to good results on Sunday?