Takaaki Nakagami

21 Down, 1 To Go: Nakagami Gets Another Year With LCR, Marini Back With VR46, Only One MotoGP Seat Open

The MotoGP grid is nearly complete. Today's announcement that Takaaki Nakagami is to stay at LCR Honda for one more season comes a day after the VR46 team announced a contract extension with Luca Marini for 2023, as well as confirming that the option the team had on Marco Bezzecchi's contract for 2023 had been taken up. Those three announcements bring the grand total of signed riders to 21 for next season, leaving just the second seat at GasGas Tech3 open.

Nakagami's signing had been expected, after Ai Ogura confirmed that he would be staying in Moto2 for another season, and had turned down the offer to move up to MotoGP. The second LCR Honda seat is funded by Idemitsu, and the Japanese oil firm has made it clear they want an Asian rider to take that seat. Honda are also keen to have a Japanese rider in MotoGP.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why The Sachsenring Was 2022 Condensed, Ride-Height Failures, Hot Hondas, And Events vs Races

With the Sachsenring done and dusted, we have reached the halfway point of the 2022 season. A quick dash from the east of Germany to the northeast of The Netherlands, and then MotoGP goes on a longer than scheduled summer break.

If the German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2022 season – the median, if you will – then the result might be classified in statistical terms as the mode: the most frequently occurring value in a set of results. If you had to sum up the MotoGP season so far, this is what it would look like.

I have a long motorcycle journey on Monday, so below are a few quick notes after the German GP, and what precisely makes it the modal MotoGP race. But also, some of the factors which make it atypical. And a sign of hope for the future of the series.

In these notes:

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Le Mans MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Qualifying Surprises, Evaluating Aleix, And Retiring Numbers

The MotoGP riders are hoping that Le Mans doesn't turn into another Portimão. In Portugal, they spent two days perfecting their wet setup, only to find themselves racing in the dry with next to no time on a dry track, outside of morning warm up. At Le Mans, it could well be the opposite. Two days of practice in near-perfect conditions, only for the race to be held in the rain. Or not, the forecast changes every time you look at it.

The weather isn't the only thing capable of surprising. All through FP3 and FP4, a very clear pattern emerged. The reigning world champion had come to his home grand prix with a plan, and vengeance in his heart. Still smarting from finishing second in Jerez, Fabio Quartararo is intent on stamping his authority on the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.

The Frenchman's rhythm in free practice was fearsome. 1'31.7s with used tires in FP3, 1'31.6s with used tires in FP4. Not single laps either, but effortlessly stringing together runs of lap after lap. The only riders who came close to that kind of pace were Alex Rins and Aleix Espargaro, but they didn't have the consistency which Quartararo was displaying.

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Mandalika MotoGP Testing Round - How Honda's Radical Redesign Reshapes 2022

What did we learn from the Mandalika test? First of all, we learned that building a circuit is hard, and every aspect of it needs to be carefully monitored. Because using the wrong stones in the aggregate for the asphalt can mean you have to resurface the track just a few weeks before the race is due to be held.

Despite the state of the asphalt, once the track cleaned up – something the riders had to be bullied into to doing, even though it was for their own good – the riders put in a lot of laps, the reward for effort going to Takaaki Nakagami, who racked up a grand total of 91 laps on the final day, or over 390km. Spend 390km on a motorcycle at road legal(ish) speeds, and you'll know about it. Spend the same distance on a MotoGP bike, pushing at the effort and intensity levels required for testing to be useful, and you enter a very different level of pain and discomfort. As made plain by LCR Honda team boss Lucio Cecchinello's photo of Nakagami's blistered hands on Instagram.

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Mandalika MotoGP Test Friday Round Up: Sweeping The Circuit To Start

It was a good day for attention-grabbing headlines at Mandalika. Pol Espargaro ended the day with a scorching lap which took him under the WorldSBK Superpole by four tenths of a second. There were six different manufacturers in the top six. The lead on the first day changed hands time after time in the last couple of hours.

But the headlines don't really mean very much. Times were dropping because the track started off filthy and only really started to clean up in the last hour or so of the day. This is the first outing at Mandalika for MotoGP, so the teams and factories have very little data to go on, with teams working on such basics as figuring out the best gearing for the track.

The track was incredibly dirty, because it is still in the middle of a building site and has not been used since WorldSBK left the circuit back in November of last year. There has been plenty of building work done, the pit complex is much closer to completion than November, but the combination of building work and torrential tropical rains left a lot of dirt and mud on the track.

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Room For Optimism: What We Learned From The Honda MotoGP Presentation

Team presentations tend to be rather turgid affairs. Hours of talk for a few brief moments of enlightenment. Which is why we sit through all those hours of talk, of course, because if you listen carefully and read between the lines, you might learn a thing or two.

Past experience left the MotoGP media looking at the Honda motorsport Q&A with some trepidation. Would it be worth sitting through the long presentations to dig out nuggets of interest?

That calculation changed on Thursday night, when HRC announced that Marc Marquez had been riding a motorcycle again, and would be present at the launch on Friday. Both developments which meant the media would get a chance to talk to Marquez about his eye injury, about the accident which caused it, and and how soon we might expect to see him on track again.

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2022 Provisional MotoGP Rider Line Up

The FIM today released the provisional entry lists for all three grand prix classes, which featured very few surprises. The biggest changes were among the riders who were forced to change numbers. Fabio Di Giannantonio switched from 21 (taken by Franco Morbidelli) to 49, while Marco Bezzecchi kept 72, Darryn Binder kept 40, and Raul Fernandez stuck with 25, the number abandoned by Maverick Viñales at the end of the 2018 season.

The most noteworthy, if not surprising, change came with the VR46 team. In previous lists of teams accepted to MotoGP and Moto2, the VR46 Racing Team were still using the name Aramco VR46, after the Saudi Arabian oil company. That deal has proved to be chimerical, and the team is now listed as VR46 Racing Team.

Provisional MotoGP line up for 2022:

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Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Explaining Ducati's Superiority, The Risks Of Progress, And Goodbye To Two Legends

The 2021 MotoGP season is at an end. And so is the grand prix racing career of Valentino Rossi, the Italian inducted as a MotoGP Legend the same night. Legend is overused as a word to describe racers, but not in this case. Rossi changed the sport, both directly, by his success and the force of his personality, and indirectly, by forcing Dorna to act for fear of what would become of the sport once Rossi left. The technical rule changes they enacted in the wake of Rossi's switch to Ducati and the Global Financial Crisis have created a thrilling spectacle where any number of bikes or riders could win a race. So though Rossi's departure leaves a gaping hole, the sport itself is in excellent shape.

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Valencia MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Big Goodbye, Ducati's Advantage, And Managing Tires

There is a surprisingly celebratory atmosphere at Valencia for the final round of the 2021 MotoGP season. In part because it is a celebration of career for the greatest icon of motorcycle racing. But also because, unlike previous years, it really is the end of the season: we are not stuck in Valencia for another three days for test. That test always cast a pall over proceedings, no one daring to look beyond Sunday, for fear of encountering another three days of continuous grind, on top of the entire year which they had just passed.

Instead, on Sunday night, the season finishes. 2022 starts three days later, at a different track, giving us all room to catch our collective breath, relax for a moment, and start the new season with some semblance of renewed energy. That respite, brief as it is, lightens the mood considerably. It feels like a weekend where we can enjoy the racing.

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Algarve Friday MotoGP Round Up: Same Old Rivals, Handling The Pressure, Honda Rising, KTM Falling, And Taillights For Safety

You would almost think that the championship hadn't been wrapped up at Misano 2. Friday at Portimão saw Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia going head to head as if the title was still on the line. FP1? Fabio Quartararo beats Pecco Bagnaia, with the two separated by just 0.045. FP2? Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia swap fastest laps, with the Frenchman snatching the best time in the dying moments, Pecco Bagnaia coming up just short on his final lap.

Dig deeper into the times and it's clear just how far ahead the two riders who fought for the championship all this year are. Both are capable of banging out long sequences of 1'40.4s on new and used tires. The title may have been settled two weeks ago at Misano, but the battle of egos will not be done until the checkered flag drops at Valencia. The fierce but friendly rivalry continues to go down to the line.

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