News 21 Aug 2017

LCR Honda confirms Nakagami in 2018 MotoGP expansion

Japanese hopeful arrives with Honda Racing Corporation contract.

Source: Supplied.

LCR Honda MotoGP Team has announced that Japanese talent Takaaki Nakagami will team up with Cal Crutchlow for the 2018 MotoGP World Championship aboard an RC213V.

Nakagami, 25, has been a world championship regular for all but two seasons since 2008, taking victory in the Moto2 race at Assen during 2016 in addition to 12 podium appearances.

“Since riding a pocket bike when I was four years old, I have always aimed to compete with the world’s best,” Nakagami commented. “This opportunity has become real thanks to all of my associates and fans. There are still seven Moto2 races left this season, including the Japanese Grand Prix. I’ll be concentrating on these races, while gaining the abilities I need for next year. I hope everyone will continue to support me the way they have up to now.”

LCR Honda team principal Lucio Cecchinello welcomed Nakagami to the team with the support of Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) and will field two riders in the premier class for the first time since Jack Miller was on-board in 2015.

“We are very happy to confirm Takaaki Nakagami as the newest member of our team, which will be expanded with crew members who boast vast experience,” said Cecchinello. “This project, alongside our current program with Cal Crutchlow, marks the fulfillment of our sporting ambitions.

“I am truly delighted and, in the name of the whole LCR Honda Team, I think it is fair to say that we are all extremely motivated to work with a rookie like Taka, because ever since he made his debut as a youngster he has shown huge potential. From myself, the team and from HRC, Takaaki will have the best support possible to take on the next challenge in his career.”

HRC president Yoshishige Nomura added: “Nakagami continues his journey into 2018 as an HRC contracted rider and using his passion and riding skills to their fullest, will undoubtedly become a rider that the younger generation from Japan and the Asia region will aspire to be like. I believe his dreams will drive him to become a top-class rider who will impress many fans.”

As a 14-year-old Nakagami became the youngest-ever winner of the Japanese 125cc Championship in 2006 and in 2007 he entered the Spanish CEV championship under the Dorna MotoGP Academy. Graduating to the world championship in 2008, he achieved his best result of the year with a top 10 finish at Donington Park, and he continued in the championship in 2009.

Stepping away from the world championship for two years, he then won the All-Japan Road Race Championship J-GP2 class title in 2011 and was drafted back into the world championship by the Italtrans team at the Japan GP as a substitute rider.

The team offered him a full-time seat for 2012 and in 2013 he just missed out on a maiden race victory on numerous occasions – not least when he scored four consecutive second-place finishes in the middle of the season. He switched to the Idemitsu Honda Team Asia for 2014, but had a tough first year, before a return to the podium with third in Misano in 2015.

Nakagami has remained with that team since and finally in 2016 he took his first win in the Dutch TT at Assen. In 2017 he has already scored a further three podiums, before announcing his graduation to the premier class with the LCR Honda MotoGP Team.