MotoGP Motegi: Hand woes at home race for Nakagami

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Picture: GeeBee Images

LCR Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami heads to his home MotoGP race for the first time in three years at Motegi this weekend.

While the Honda rider is happy to be back in front of his home fans, a hand injury - sustained after a collision with fellow HRC rider Marc Marquez last weekend at Aragon - has made the forthcoming race more challenging than he would have liked.

The Japanese rider underwent surgery on Monday to repair tendons in the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand and while he has been passed fit to compete during Friday’s extended FP1 session, his participation in the remainder of the weekend remains undecided.

“To be honest, my hand is not the best feeling, of course,” Nakagami admitted on Thursday evening. “On Monday, I had surgery in Barcelona. Only a few days to recover 100 per cent.

“After the race, I understood that my hand was pretty bad, so I was expecting it will be a really, really tough home race this weekend.

“Actually, at least I got the green light for FP1 but I have to check again and we will decide to continue or stop after that.”

Reflecting on the incident that caused the injury, Nakagami was magnanimous in the part played by his colleague.

“Well, it’s difficult, I tried to overtake Marc at turn seven, and I lost the line slightly, and he tried to overtake again on the exit. He was clearly in front of me. It looks like when he activated the device the bike went to the left, in such a short time, I tried to elbow out to avoid contact but it was impossible.

“That moment I realised it wasn’t Marc’s fault, it was an unlucky racing accident.

Zero per cent I never got angry with him, it was unlucky, I got injured but this is life. It could have been worse, I hit him twice, but the first one I was already out of control. I cannot imagine the first one going to the right, I was trying to stay on the bike but it was full throttle, the second one I already crashed and was on the floor. Thank god all the riders behind avoided me. I was lucky. I will try to recover and let’s see how FP1 goes.”

While his hand will play a major part in his first race at home since 2019, the weather also promises a few surprises.

“Yeah, normally everyone prays for sunshine and good weather for the fans and for the riders but looks like a pretty unstable weather forecast. A couple of days ago a big typhoon came and also the weekend looks pretty bad.

“Physically, rain could be a help because less force for the braking and it will be better. I feel sorry for the fans, after three years, all the MotoGP riders and Japanese fans waiting for this weekend so, apart from the injury, hopefully good weather this weekend.”

Another impact of his injury is the decision to use, or take benefit from the new Kalex swingarm recently introduced by Honda.

“I tested the aluminium swingarm at the Misano Test,” the 30-year-old confirmed. “It was pretty comfortable and I like it. Then Marc had it in Aragon and he had a positive feeling I believe. The plan for this weekend I will get the swingarm but this hand and this performance, I don’t know if will be a help or not. First I need to check how is the level of performance with my hand, and if I am able to keep pushing, we need to decide the lap time or the performance and then we will try during the weekend, but will be difficult.”

Despite the challenges faced, the LCR rider was throughly enjoying being back in front of the local support and showing off his autumnal one-off helmet design.

“Today already I met a lot of fans and friends in the paddock so it’s an amazing feeling,” Nakagami confirmed. “The feeling is, this is my home GP, this is home. I’m able to talk Japanese, many friends in the paddock. This already feels much better and naturally gives a lot of positive energy. Of course, I prepared a special helmet for this weekend, as always in Japan. Now is Autumn, so I tried to design it some traditional Japanese design for the Autumn, so hopefully the fans will like it.”