Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Tetsuta Nagashima had to wait seventy Grands Prix across seven years before finally tasting victory in Sunday’s QNB Grand Prix of Qatar. The Japanese rider has had to battle his way to the top, receiving a helping hand from some crucial figures along the way.
First to help Nagashima on his way to Grand Prix success was the man he dedicated his debut win to, his late friend Shoya Tomizawa: "He’s my hero because when I started racing, I did it with him. I always followed him from pocket bikes, to minibikes, to the All Japan Championship where we were in the same team."
Free video: Nagashima surfing at the Red Bull Ring!
Tomizawa’s advice and help as a teammate played a crucial part in Nagashima being crowned the 2011 GP-Mono All Japan Road Race Champion, runner-up in the 2012 J-GP3 Championship and then sixth in the 2013 J-GP2 Championship at the helm of a TSR. It was with this bike with which he made his World Championship debut at the Japanese Grand Prix in the same year as part of the JiR Team. He would eventually finish the race in 20th.
This experience would prove to be critical, as Nagashima was selected to race for the team full-time when compatriot Kohta Nozane elected not to compete across the 2014 season. His performances throughout 2014 didn’t earn him a second year on the world stage so Nagashima took the step back into the FIM CEV European Moto2™ Championship. A top-eight finish in all but two rounds, plus podium finishes in two of the final three races, caught the eye of Aki Ajo who signed him up to his Ajo Motorsport Academy for the 2016 Championship.
From FIM CEV Repsol to the Moto2™ World Championship
2016 would prove to be a key year for Nagashima under the tutorship of Aki Ajo, with eight rostrums, including a debut victory at the final round of the year in Valencia, helping him to second in the Championship and, as a result, a seat in the World Championship full-time for 2017. He signed up with the Teluru SAG Team, leaving Aki Ajo’s side for now, where he made gradual progress throughout the year, topped off by a first top ten finish at the penultimate round in Malaysia.
In 2018, he moved across to the Idemitsu Honda Team Asia squad, signed to replace Takaaki Nakagami who made the step up to the premier class. In the first half of the season, the 27-year-old managed just two points-scoring finishes. He finished in the points in five of the final six races of the season, including a new career-best of eighth at the Thai Grand Prix, but he moved back to the SAG Team for 2019.
2019 was to be his be best year to date, making a further step by regularly competing inside the top ten and even claiming two top-five finishes at Dutch TT and British GP. A debut pole position at the Red Bull Ring and two further front-row starts along the way was a key indicator that Nagashima was ready to make that next step and be a podium contender.
Dream it. Wish it. Do it. ✨— Red Bull KTM Ajo (@RedBull_KTM_Ajo) March 9, 2020
What a special and amazing victory ???? at the #QatarGP ????#GivesYouWings #ReadyToRace @MotoGP #AjoMotorsport #AjoFamily pic.twitter.com/mlZxxhHYl5
A series of dominos at the conclusion of the 2019 season meant Nagashima teamed up with an old friend. Brad Binder was promoted to the factory KTM squad with Iker Lecuona, previously signed up to the KTM Moto2™ team, replacing him at Red Bull KTM Tech 3. Aki Ajo then picked up the phone and brought on board an old friend in the form of Tetsuta Nagashima for the 2020 Moto2™ World Championship and the rest is history.
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