‘I believe in myself’ says Japanese MotoGP star Nakagami

| | MotoGP
Picture: GeeBee Images

LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami is taking steps to ensure he is prepared for a successful fifth season in MotoGP.

The Idemitsu rider suffered a disappointing 2021, completing the year 15th overall - compared to his top ten of 2020 - with only four finishes in single figures and three DNF’s to his name. The arrival of HRC’s new RC213V, however, has brought optimism throughout the Honda camp with the 29-year-old also working with a mental coach to give him a further edge for the coming campaign.

“Last season, 2021 was quite tough season for us,” Nakagami admitted. “I had some good races but to be honest was a really tough season for everyone, for myself. Many crashes during the season but all my team, we never give up. I had some good feeling on the bike, and especially end of the season we had the Jerez test for 2022. We had the opportunity to test with the new bikes. It was really great potential. First impression was really positive, all Honda riders say that new bike is really good potential so I’m really looking forward for this season.

“This is going to be my fifth year in MotoGP so it’s time to make it a great season. We are ready to make a good season and be ready.

“Last year we were definitely struggling about the rear grip and unfortunately we try many things but the main problem did not disappear so we struggle a lot, for the qualifying lap and also race distance. I had to take extra risk and then unfortunately I had some crashes during the races and during the practice so it was really tough.

“Definitely the new bike is a big improvement about the rear grip, also engine performance and many parts. As you see from the outside of the bike, is a big change to the shape and you can see how Honda is working so hard within the season.

“The new bike is much better than 2021 bike but of course, we need to test many things because the bike is still not 100% of course. In the Jerez test we just needed to understand which direction and fortunately me, Pol [Espargaro] and Alex [Marquez], the comment was the same direction so this is really positive. I’m really happy to hear the same comments.

“We have Malaysia test and the Mandalika test - two days and three days - and this is gonna be really, really important preseason tests to be ready for Qatar. Of course in Jerez was really good but we never know if it’s gonna be good test in Malaysia or Mandalika too. Will be different conditions and different layout, will be of course different tyre allocations. I’m thinking that Jerez test was good, but we have to start from zero in Sepang.

“Also, Marc said that he will come back in Malaysia test so four riders in Malaysia, I’m really happy to hear that. We need to work really hard to be ready for first race in Qatar and this five days of tests gonna be super busy but we are so happy to work together. I’m really looking forward to Malaysia test and to jump on again the new bike.

“After this season I already start working with a mental coach, mental trainer, step by step but these kind of things are really sensitive things. We cannot change personality after day one. I’m thinking to be relaxed, of course, race by race we need to improve but already myself and also my mentor trainer is working a different way. I’m really looking forward to the first Malaysia test, [to see] how I change and race by race, how I can change mentality and how we can improve for the race result. We don’t need to push, just one day, race by race and hopefully I can feel the different mentality from last season.

“I believe in myself, also I believe in all Honda team. Not only for me personally but all Honda family this will be great season and I wish best luck of all Honda riders.”