Factory Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami says he chose to skip the 2019 running of Suzuka 8 Hours to prioritise his burgeoning career in MotoGP.
2010 winner Nakagami returned to Suzuka 8 Hours in 2017 with Harc-Pro, before switching to Honda’s revived factory squad last year and finishing runner-up to the winning Yamaha team.
However, the 27-year-old is missing from this year’s entry list, with Honda instead fielding Stefan Bradl, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Takumi Takahashi in a revamped line-up for its Red Bull-sponsored factory bike.
Speaking during the Catalan Grand Prix, Nakagami revealed that he specifically requested HRC to let him focus on his MotoGP campaign with LCR at the cost of Suzuka 8 Hours.
“I had a lot of discussions with HRC about Suzuka 8 Hours, since Argentina-America,” Nakagami said when asked by Motorsport.com.
“I spoke with HRC guy to say that I want to focus on MotoGP side because - of course they know that the contract until this year, for my side I want to continue to focus on MotoGP to get the good result, for the future.
“And then they start to understand, and finally they decide I'm out for this year, I don't know for the future.”
Nakagami said he found it tricky to switch from Honda’s MotoGP bike to the Fireblade it races in Suzuka 8 Hours, with the presence of Brno MotoGP round a week later creating further headaches.
“Last two years I was there and a little bit struggled to swap the bike from Superbike to the MotoGP bike, because the problem is the scheduling is so tight, after the Suzuka 8 Hours and straight to Brno the race, and we don't have time to feedback with the MotoGP,” he explained.
“So this is the reason I was not really 100 percent to be sure to go to the Suzuka 8 Hours. This year I want to focus on MotoGP."
The 42nd running of Suzuka 8 Hours will take place on the weekend of July 25-28.
#33 Red Bull Honda: PJ Jacobsen, Takumi Takahashi, Takaaki Nakagami