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30 days ago
By motogp.com

Nakagami ends Japan's 16-year MotoGP™ pole drought

Honda's Japanese star soared to a maiden premier class pole position, the first from his home nation to do so since Makoto Tamada in 2004

For the first time since the 2004 Valencia GP, a Japanese rider will start the MotoGP™ race from pole position. Then it was Makoto Tamada, now at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel it’s LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami.

Fresh off the back of pocketing a new HRC contract, Nakagami is riding stress-free at the Teruel GP – and it shows. The Japanese star has been a roaring success throughout 2020 and has thoroughly deserved his new deal with the Japanese giants, but the second race weekend at MotorLand Aragon has seen the 28-year-old take his performance levels up a notch.

 

Nakagami hasn’t ventured outside the top two in any session so far this weekend. 2-1-2-2-1 has been his run in Free Practice and qualifying, but Sunday afternoon is where it really counts. A P5 finish at MotorLand last weekend looks like it will almost certainly be bettered with the pace Nakagami has displayed in Teruel, with that illustrious maiden MotoGP™ podium firmly on the cards.  

“First of all it wasn’t a perfect lap,” began Nakagami, speaking after claiming that historic pole position – the first for LCR Honda since 2018, Honda’s first since Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in Japan 2019 and Nakagami’s first pole since the 2017 Japanese GP. “Through sector one I saw on the display that I was one tenth slower than my best time. I realised this is my last lap and I tried to adjust in the last sectors and I went through 2,3 and 4, I was going faster and faster and when I passed the finish line I saw the 1:46.

 

“It was a nice feeling but I didn’t know it was pole position because there was no TVs. I was hoping to get pole position of course but it could have been second or third row because the times are so tight. Yeah, when I came back to pitlane I saw our crew waiting in P1 in parc ferme and then I realised we got pole position so yeah, a great feeling. The feeling on the bike is so good from FP1, it looks like we have great performance so far this weekend and this is the most important thing for the race.”

There’s no doubt Nakagami has the pace to win. The run into the first corner is going to be vital and if he can get in ahead of fellow front row starters Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – or another fast starter – then that might be the race winning move. The number 30 isn’t getting too carried away though and knows how tough the 23-lap battle will be, but Nakagami is in a confident mood ahead of the Teruel GP.

“Hopefully we can continue this performance tomorrow and we have a good pace, we showed in FP4 with the soft tyre we definitely have a good pace. For sure Rins and Morbidelli tried to destroy my strategy of course, be calm, try to make a good start – this is the most important thing. After that, try to keep my pace and hopefully I can get some gap at the beginning. At the end we have a good pace so try to control the gap but this is just dreaming. Hopefully they are not faster than me. Nice feeling to get first pole, I want to say thanks to all my team and my fans, we are ready for another great day tomorrow.”

A win or podium will bring Nakagami right into the title race. He’s only 29 points off Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) with four races to go, will that gap decrease before the final triple-header of 2020? Find out at 13:00 local time (GMT+1) on Sunday afternoon.

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