MotoGP

Takaaki Nakagami Interview: On Learning From Marc Marquez, Competing For Podiums, And Honda's Holeshot Device

Takaaki Nakagami with crew chief Giacomo Guidotti at Aragon 2 - 2020

2020 was a transformative year for Takaaki Nakagami. His results in his first two seasons in MotoGP had been rather modest, to put it mildly. The LCR Honda rider had looked very much like the token Japanese representative in MotoGP he was suspected of being, a sop to appease Honda, who have long wanted to field a Japanese rider in the premier class.

That all changed in 2020. Nakagami went from being an also-ran to being a constant podium contender, scoring his first pole and front row starts, and matching or beating his best result on four occasions. He was very fast in practice, both over a single lap and in terms of race pace. His zenith came at Aragon 2, where he grabbed pole and led the race for the first few corners, before crashing out.

What brought about this change? After a mediocre first race in Jerez, Nakagami spent a lot of time studying the data of Marc Márquez, and tried to adapt the six-time MotoGP champion's riding style to his own. That proved to be a huge step forward for the LCR Honda rider, and Nakagami ended the season as a serious threat in every race.

After speaking to journalists throughout the year in English, his second language, Nakagami finally gave an interview in his native Japanese to esteemed Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura. In the interview, Nakagami opens up on how he changed his riding style to be more competitive, on how he learned to handle the Honda RC213V, and what HRC did to improve the performance of the bike, including introducing the holeshot device and a shapeshifter.

So here, with Nishimura-san's excellent translation into English, is Takaaki Nakagami in his own words.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP: The real reason MotoGP 2020 was so close and unpredictable

Many fans rated last season as the most entertaining in years. But who should they thank for the apparent unpredictability and super-close lap times?

There were two things that got MotoGP commentators and fans particularly excited last season: the unpredictability of the racing and the incredibly close lap times, with the fastest 15 riders often separated by less than a second.

But was the racing really any more unpredictable than it’s been in recent years?

MotoGP 2020 certainly seemed unusually unpredictable because none of the title challengers managed to score consistent results over the 14 rounds. Even world champion Joan Mir stood on the podium at only half the races, while 2020 runner-up Franco Morbidelli only made the top three at five races.

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Pedrosa And Kallio To Stay As KTM Test Riders In 2021

Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio are to continue as test riders for KTM's MotoGP project throughout 2021. The two test riders, who have played a fundamental role in the success of the Austrian factory's MotoGP project, will carry on in their respective roles for another season.

The two riders have had a huge impact on the development of the KTM RC16, and their division of labor has been key in fast-tracking the project through 2020. Kallio continues his role as workhorse, doing preliminary testing of parts and testing durability, while Pedrosa works on preselecting packages of parts which work together to produce the best performance. Those packages are then passed to the factory riders for final approval before being used in a race.

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Sylvain Guintoli - Suzuki's Third Man

Sylvain Guintoli rides the Suzuki GSX-RR at the 2019 round at Motegi

Up until 2017, the Suzuki MotoGP team did not even have a European test team. They relied on their Japanese test team. But like all the other manufacturers, they were looking at the work done by Ducati and were pushing for a second test team. The opportunity came for Suzuki and for Davide Brivio to campaign for it after Sylvain Guintoli was brought in to replace Alex Rins, their rookie who fractured his ankle in training, and then two races later, broke his left wrist during a practice crash.

Guintoli, the WSBK 2014 champion (on an Aprilia), a former MotoGP, 250cc and BSB rider, rode for almost every manufacturer during his career, including Suzuki, both in BSB and WSBK in 2009/10. He returned to BSB to ride for Suzuki in 2017, but had to miss rounds to replace Alex Rins. The Hamamatsu factory remembered him fondly. "They made changes in Japan and Sahara-san (Shinichi Sahara, project leader) came back to the MotoGP project from the Barcelona 2017 round and I arrived just a little bit before that,” he shares from his home in the UK a few days before that historic championship-winning race for Joan Mir. "When I first tried the bike, I gave the team some comments and told them what I thought about it,” the French rider recalls his experience during three rounds. "Our collaboration started there and we are in its third year now."

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Gresini Confirm Independent Team Status In 2022

The first step toward the 2022 MotoGP grid has taken place. With a new five-year contract period between Dorna, the manufacturers, and IRTA as representative of the teams starting in 2022, grid slots are open for application once again. Gresini Racing, led by Fausto Gresini, is to separate from Aprilia and become an independent team once again, they announced in a press release.

It is no secret that Gresini was to become independent, as both Fausto Gresini and Aprilia have spoken about it openly. The press release merely makes official what was already known. The partnership between Gresini and Aprilia had been a marriage of convenience from the start, a stepping stone to allow the Noale factory to return to MotoGP in 2015 without setting up major infrastructure. That was why Aprilia was still regarded as an independent team, rather than a full-factory effort, for the purpose of the Independent Team Standings.

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Only Marc Márquez Threatens Wayne Rainey´s “Unbeatable” Podium Appearance Percentage Record

Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi at the Jerez MotoGP round in 2020

Records are made to be broken and, generally, they are. For example, it seems inevitable that even Usain Bolt´s record of 9.58 from 2009 will eventually fall, given the progress of sprinters since Jim Hines won the 100 meters in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in 9.95 seconds, a record that lasted 15 years.

Someone someday will probably break Lionel Messi´s 2012 record of 91 goals in a calendar year, although I can´t imagine anyone ever beating Will Chamberlain´s 50.4 points per game from the 1961-62 NBA basketball season. That record just might deserve the adjective “unbreakable.” In FIM Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, there are several records that stand out, some that promise to be around for a long, long time.

Back in 2012, just before Marc Marquez entered the MotoGP class, I was discussing with MotoGP statistician Dr. Martin Raines which important records were the most unlikely to be broken, at least in the short-term future. I recall that seven of the most impressive were:

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP: no one — not even Márquez — gets to ride the magic carpet for free

Marc Márquez’s injury struggles shine a light on the dangers faced by motorcycle racers and remind us of the painful journey taken by another Honda superstar

A motorcycle cartwheels down the track and into the dirt. Medics arrive on the scene. They lay the injured rider on a stretcher and load him into an ambulance. Sirens wail. The crowd’s attention returns to the racing.

“Is he hurt pretty bad?” asks a woman.

“I dunno,” her photographer husband replies. “Somebody said he broke his back.”

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Marc Marquez Still In Hospital, Infection Found During Surgery

Marc Marquez is to remain in hospital in Madrid after surgery on his right arm. The Spaniard had an operation to attach a plate and a bone graft to promote bone growith on the humerus he fractures at Jerez. A sample was taken of the fractured bone, and that showed signs of infection. That is not uncommon in non-union fractures such as that suffered by Marquez. The Repsol Honda rider is being treated with antibiotics for the infection.

The press release from Honda appears below:

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Marc Marquez Has Third Surgery To Fix Non-Union Fracture Of Right Arm Broken In Jerez

Marc Márquez has had a third operation on the fractured right humerus he injured at the opening round at Jerez, and then broke again some ten days later. After many hours of speculation, the Repsol Honda team issued a press release confirming earlier reports that the Spaniard had undergone an operation at the Clinica Ruber in Madrid, to fit a new plate and take a bone graft from his hip to promote bone growth. The third operation was deemed necessary after the fracture has failed to heal as quickly as hoped.

Márquez' woes began at the first MotoGP race of the 2020 season at Jerez, after the Repsol Honda rider ran wide at Turn 4 and rode through the gravel on lap 5, and lost 9 seconds as a result. The Spaniard rejoined, and then set about slicing his way through the field, eventually ending up in third place and hot on the heels of Maverick Viñales.

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