MotoGP

Yikes, Cal Crutchlow does NOT think much of LCR team-mate Nakagami!

Cal Crutchlow lays into his LCR Honda team-mate Takaaki Nakagami, saying he doesn't deserve a 2020 Honda; Nakagami responds by killing him with kindness.

COMING into MotoGP 2019, if we were to put our money on which team-mates would be waving fists on track and blanking one another off it, we odds-on thinking it was going to be Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo (a few more centimetres to the left during the Catalunya race and that definitely would have been on…)

However, it seems this year’s saltiest inter-team discontent is down at LCR Honda following Cal Crutchow’s alarmingly honest assessment – both professional and personal – of Takaaki Nakagami.

Team-mates at the Monaco-based Honda satellite team since the start of 2018, a tough rookie campaign for the Japanese rider has evolved into a vastly improved sophomore effort, one that has lifted him into the upper portion of the mid-field and right onto Crutchlow’s patch.

This is despite Nakagami making good use of Crutchlow’s 2018 Honda as the three-time MotoGP race winner campaigns the same trick 2019 Honda galloping away at the head of the standings.

Indeed, with their rivalry already simmering away following an incident earlier in the year [which is explained further down the page], Crutchlow doused a fair splash of petrol onto the bonfire this weekend when he was asked to comment on rumours Honda could ‘promote’ Nakagami onto a new 2020 spec Honda for next season.

"Nakagami on a 2020 Honda next year? No, he doesn't deserve it," says Crutchlow

Crutchlow didn’t hold back, saying Nakagami ‘doesn’t deserve it’, before asserting he is merely doing an ‘OK job’ this season and that a recent chance to ride the 2019 Honda in testing – and lapped quicker than Crutchlow – ‘meant nothing’…

"No, he doesn't deserve it, I don’t think," he is quoted as saying by our sister publication Crash.net in Brno . "But I'm not really going to say anything good about him at the moment because my relationship with him is not fantastic. But, it's Honda's decision. I don’t think he deserves it, no. He's had one fifth place in all the grands prix."

"It's Honda's decision, I think obviously he's Japanese and it's good for him to be riding a Honda. As I've said all year, he's complaining about his [year-old] bike not being the same as what we have now, but I honestly believe he'd be slower on our bike than he is now. That's sure.

"Just because he went faster [on the 2019 bike] in the Barcelona test means nothing. He also had a tyre that was worth one-second a lap.

"You have to do what you can with the bike you have and I think he is doing an okay job with the bike that he's got.

"Now if he gets this year's bike [next season, instead of a 2020], don’t forget this year's bike is developing all year, so maybe at the end of the year it's better than it is now. So maybe this package at the end of the year is going to be really strong again."

Nakagami only doing an 'OK job' despite evident step forward and year-old bike 

Despite Crutchlow’s lacklustre appraisal of Nakagami, the Japanese rider has been warmly praised for the notable step forward he has made in 2019, not least his run to fifth place in Spain to become the first Japanaese rider to crack the top five since 2012. With quick young Japanese riders harder to come by today, it’s fair to say Honda is keen to nurture him.  

Indeed, origins of this feud – on track at least… for all we know Nakagami may have a habit putting the empty milk carton back in the fridge  – can be traced back to the Catalunya, where Nakagami finished eighth via a tussle with an unimpressed Crutchlow (who later crashed unaided out of fourth).

Nakagami himself can’t quite put a finger on the moment Crutchlow put a wall up in the garage – real or otherwise – but agrees their relationship seemed to change after Catalunya. 

“My feeling [with Cal] is still okay. Of course, Montmelo during the race, I took a little bit of a risk to overtake him and after that he got angry. But as I said after the race, 'this is racing'," said Nakagami, who uses a year-old bike.

"A little bit changed [after that], but still I'm respectful. Of course, I always, let's say, want to beat him, because this is the rival; the team-mate is the biggest of the targets.

Is this the most bizarre (and seemingly one-sided) feud in motorsport at the moment?

When he is informed of Crutchlow’s opinions regarding whether he deserves a 2020 Honda, Nakagami hits back with the most powerful verbal weapon of all… complete and utter politeness.

"From my side I didn’t change anything… I'm still respectful and always I compare Cal's data. I feel like this is MotoGP, everybody wants to beat [everyone]. I want to focus on myself because I'm not perfect, still I'm not good enough. This I understand.

"Still we have ten races to go and I want to grow up race-by-race and if I have a chance, not every race but some races, I want to beat Cal."

Is it fair to say one of these riders emerges from this looking a tad bitter, unreasonable and threatened, whereas the other is modest, focused on bettering himself and hails from the same nation as their employers…….?. 

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