Takaaki Nakagami will be staying with the LCR Honda team for 2020, HRC and the LCR Honda team have officially confirmed. After a long period of negotiation, Honda and Nakagami have finally reached terms which will see the Japanese rider staying in Lucio Cecchinello's team for another season.
The announcement had long been expected. Nakagami was one of a few riders without a confirmed contract for 2020, but as his place in the LCR Honda Idemitsu team came with direct support from Honda and Japanese oil brand Idemitsu, there seemed little doubt he would be back.
The sticking point in the negotiations was which bike Nakagami would be riding. Throughout the summer, Nakagami insisted he wanted a 2020-spec Honda RC213V for next year. However, as the flyaways approached, it became increasingly clear that the Japanese rider was resigned to settling for a 2019-spec machine.
That was finally confirmed in the press release, LCR team boss Lucio Cecchinello stating that Nakagami will be racing "the RCV Factory motorcycle that has just won the 2019 World Title with Marc Marquez". Given how difficult to ride the 2019 machine has proven to be for anyone other than Marquez, this could pose a serious challenge for Nakagami.
The press release also confirmed that Nakagami will miss the last three races of the 2019 season after his home race in Motegi. Nakagami is to undergo surgery on his right shoulder after Motegi, and faces a long rehabilitation period to be fit for the first test of 2020 at Sepang. He injured his shoulder in the crash with Valentino Rossi at Assen this year, and has suffered with a lack of strength since then.
Nakagami's absence opens the way for Johann Zarco to step in and take his place. Though this has not been announced yet, Zarco confirmed to leading French journalist Thomas Baujard that he would be replacing Nakagami for the remainder of 2019.
This opportunity is widely seen as a trial run for Zarco at Honda. There are credible rumors in the paddock that Repsol Honda are considering sacking Jorge Lorenzo at the end of the year, and replacing the Spaniard with Johann Zarco. There are of course concerns that Zarco may find the Honda just as hard to ride as he did the KTM, and giving Zarco a trial on the Honda for the remaining three races of 2019 gives HRC a chance to evaluate the Frenchman's ability to ride the RC213V.
Nakagami's contract wraps up the last-but-one seat on the 2020 MotoGP grid. The only seat left open is at KTM, to replace Zarco, who quit the team earlier this year. Zarco's seat is currently being filled by Mika Kallio, and the Finn remains an option for 2020. Meanwhile, KTM are looking round for a possible replacement.
The press releases from HRC and the LCR Honda team appear below:
Honda extend contract with Takaaki Nakagami in MotoGP
On the eve of his home MotoGP race in Japan, Honda Racing Corporation confirm the one-year extension of Takaaki Nakagami in the LCR Honda IDEMITSU.
Now in his second year aboard the Honda RC213V run inside LCR Honda IDEMITSU, Takaaki Nakagami has demonstrated constant improvements in his riding and results in the MotoGP class. With nine top-ten finishes and a best result of fifth at the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello, the Japanese rider has already amassed more than double the points he scored in his rookie campaign.
Takaaki Nakagami arrives at his home race, the Japanese Grand Prix, with a new one-year contract with LCR Honda IDEMITSU. All involved are pleased to continue the relationship and look forward to more improvements from the 27-year old.
After the race in Motegi, Nakagami will undergo an operation on his shoulder to resolve an injury that has troubled him throughout the season. The nature of the operation warrants an extensive recovery period, forcing the Japanese rider to end his 2019 season early. By performing the operation now, Nakagami is aiming to be fully fit for the first test of the 2020 season in Sepang on February 07.
Takaaki Nakagami 30
Rider – MotoGP
“First of all I am delighted to stay with Honda and the LCR Team. I have been able to improve a lot this year and Honda have shown me great support and given me a very strong package. I am sure together we can continue this in 2020. About the injury, after the crash I had in Assen I found myself in some pain and lacking a bit of strength in my shoulder. I went to the doctor to fully understand the situation and while I have been able to ride with the injury, it has not been ideal so we made the difficult decision alongside Honda and the LCR Team to have this operation now.”
HRC Director - General Manager Race Operations Management Division
“We are proud to continue to support Takaaki Nakagami in the MotoGP class for the 2020 season. As a rider he has continued to develop and grow throughout all of 2019. He is someone who inspires many young talents in Japan and Asia with his hard work and focus. I wish him all the best in his recovery and look forward to the 2020 season.”
NAKAGAMI AND HRC EXTEND CONTRACT FOR 2020
PRESS RELEASE: 15 October 2019 - OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
Takaaki Nakagami and HRC have agreed an extension to their contract for the 2020 MotoGP World Championship. It is confirmed this week that the Japanese talent has signed another one-year deal with the Japanese manufacturer, riding for Lucio Cecchinello’s outfit in the LCR Honda IDEMITSU Team.
Now in his second year aboard the RC213V Takaaki Nakagami has demonstrated consistent improvements in his riding and results in the premier class in 2019. With eight top-ten finishes and a best result of fifth at the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello so far, the Japanese rider has already amassed more than double the points he scored in his rookie campaign.
After his home race in Motegi, Nakagami will undergo an operation on his right shoulder to resolve an injury that has troubled him throughout the season. The nature of the operation warrants an extensive recovery period, forcing the Japanese rider to prematurely end his 2019 season. By performing the operation now, Nakagami is aiming to be fully fit for the first test of the 2020 season in Sepang on February 7th.
Lucio Cecchinello (LCR Honda Team Principal): “We are delighted to continue this project with Takaaki Nakagami, and hope to build even further on his impressive performance in 2019. Taka has demonstrated the ability to fight in the top ten of the MotoGP World Championship every race weekend and together with HRC we will set the goal of taking another step forward. In 2020, Taka will compete with the RCV Factory motorcycle that has just won the 2019 World Title with Marc Marquez. Next season will be particularly important so, although we are sorry about the early end to Taka’s season, we are convinced that the decision to undergo surgery after the Japanese GP is the correct one, so that he can return to the best physical condition by the time of the first test in Malaysia in February.”
“First of all I am delighted to stay with Honda and the LCR Honda IDEMITSU Team. I have been able to improve a lot this year and Honda have shown me great support and given me a very strong package. I am sure together we can continue this in 2020. About the injury, after the crash I had in Assen during the race I found myself in some pain and lacking a bit of strength in my right shoulder. I went to visit Doctor Mir twice in Barcelona, and more recently I had an appointment with Doctor Hiroyuki Sugaya at Funabashi Orthopedic Surgical Hospital in Tokyo to fully understand the situation. While I have been able to ride with the injury, it has not been ideal, so we made the difficult decision alongside Honda and the LCR Honda IDEMITSU Team to have this operation in Japan straight after my home race”.