Nakagami: 2019 Honda 'completely different concept'

Takaaki Nakagami talks debut test on a 2019 Honda, hoping to get the latest factory machinery for 2020.
Nakagami: 2019 Honda 'completely different concept'

Takaaki Nakagami got his first taste of a 2019 factory MotoGP machine when he was invited to try the latest Honda at the Barcelona test.

The Japanese, who has raced year-old RCVs during both seasons in the premier-class, completed 20 laps on LCR team-mate Cal Crutchlow's bike.

"Of course it was a nice experience, my first time let's say to try a factory bike," Nakagami said at Assen on Thursday. "It was only a few runs, I think less than 20 laps. Some negative points and some positive points, but my lap time [seventh overall] improved compared to the 2018 bike.

"HRC asked me to test for the feedback, because as you know Jorge and Cal complain a little bit about the front feeling. I could feel the difference, because it's a completely different concept.

"Especially into the first part of the turning it's a little bit different. And different position of the handlebars. But it's difficult to say the 2019 bike is a worse feeling on the front because I felt in some points it's good.

"Also it has a lot of power and this is a lot of help, it makes it more easy to make the lap time. And I was really surprised about the wings with the factory bike. Which is a lot of help for the downforce.

"The wings make a difference in all parts of the track. Absolutely no wheelie, which means a lot of downforce and so you are able to increase the power."

The increased engine performance, which has allowed the Honda riders to challenge the top speed supremacy of Ducati, also allows a wider variety of riding styles.

"The '19 bike has a lot more power and acceleration. So I can use a little bit different riding style, more focus on the strong exit. But the '18 bike has a different engine character, because the power delivery is completely different.

"Like Marc said, this year he can choose the different riding style, This is what I feel. I completely agree."

Nakagami, known for his corner speed on the 2018 bike, confirmed that some aspects of his riding style are similar to Jorge Lorenzo.

"People have told me that me and Jorge are a little bit more similar let's say riding style. but the setting is different, so it's difficult to say," he replied. "Maybe for the right-hand and throttle management I think very similar. I don't know, but HRC told me that me and Jorge are similar."

While happy to get the chance to try the latest bike, it’s not possible for Nakagami to switch to the newer machine this season.

"In less than 20 laps I was faster than on the '18 bike.  But the rules are the rules. So we cannot change. We will try to do our best this season and let's see for the future."

Nakagami has a best race finish of fifth this season and is currently eighth, as the next-best Honda rider behind Marc Marquez, in the world championship standings.

The Japanese is thus seen as certain to get a contract extension for 2020, however: "It's still not 100% fixed… Hopefully HRC is thinking about giving me a factory bike for next season. This is my target."