MotoGP

Takaaki Nakagami tests 2020 Honda MotoGP bike, lavishes it with praise

2020 MotoGP standout Takaaki Nakagami gets a chance to sample the 2020 Honda RC213V, lavishes it with praise despite its woefully uncompetitve results

It's been a miserable 2020 MotoGP World Championship season for Honda thus far no matter which way you look at it, albeit perhaps with the sole exception of Takaaki Nakagami's continued ascension to become one this year's standout performers.

The Japanese rider has been left to almost single-handedly stop the rot from Honda's horrendous form at the moment as the only rider on the grid this season to finish all six races inside the top ten. 

By contrast, the combination of Alex Marquez, Stefan Bradl and Cal Crutchlow have managed just one top ten finish between them and have contributed just 29  points as a trio, versus Nakagami’s 53 points.

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Moreover, Nakagami's performances have all been achieved riding the 2019-spec Honda RC213V, a machine that while a title-winner in Marc Marquez's hands, was a tricky mistress in Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo's grip.

While the 2020 Honda RC213V appears to be even more of a handful, Nakagami was given the chance to sample it during the Misano MotoGP test and far from being intimidated by its reputation, set strong lap times before saying there were 'no negatives', even if he did have a crash.

"The new bike feels so good. Unfortunately, I had a crash with the new bike! Because we had planned to make a long run but after ten laps I had a big impact in turn one, the big bump, and lost the front end. It was an easy crash.

"Sorry to HRC but the bike was good. I felt comfortable and the lap time even on a long run was like a '32 low every lap. So it was really positive and I don't feel any negative."

“Honda gave me an opportunity to test the bike and give comments. It was quite simple. The good thing is I didn't feel any negative so as a first step I'm so happy and I think for the future Honda's bike works pretty well."

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Though one can speculate he's towing a party line of good publicity, it is nonetheless in character for Nakagami to take on a challenge and make the best of his situation, while the stopwatch doesn't lie at the end of the day

The man himself revealed earlier this year that he has been poring over Marquez's 2019 data to get the best from the machine, leading to a more aggressive braking style that he says attributed to his new fourth place career best at Jerez and a front row start in Styria. 

Crutchlow has sought to play down Nakagami’s efforts, pointing out he is getting use of a bike the Briton spent 2019 helping get to a level his LCR team-mate can exploit in 2020. Alas, unfortunately for Crutchlow, that doesn’t entirely explain the 46-point gap between them after six races.

Unfortunately for Nakagami, though he has been elevated to de facto team leader by Marquez’s absence, he won’t be allowed to race the 2020 RC213V this season due to engine freeze regulations preventing him from swapping specs. 

However, the outing this week is as good as a confirmation Nakagami will not only be retained in the LCR squad next season alongside the incoming Alex Marquez (as expected), he will be upgraded to what will be current-spec 2021 Honda machinery next year. 

It remains to be seen whether Honda will follow the course of Ducati and Yamaha by supplying four current-spec machines or revert Marquez - who is struggling in his rookie season - to what would be a 2020-spec machine for 2021.

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