Nakagami gives himself “2 out of 10” for 2021 season

Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami has awarded himself “2 out of 10” for his 2021 MotoGP season after a year of struggles aboard his LCR-run Honda.

Nakagami gives himself “2 out of 10” for 2021 season

Nakagami went into his fourth year in the premier class hoping to build on a breakout 2020 campaign in which he scored his first pole position, emerged as a consistent top-six challenger and ended up 10th in the riders’ standings. 

However, despite having access to the latest-spec Honda RC213V for the first time in 2021, Nakagami endured a dismal season that yielded just six top-10 results and a final placing of 15th, albeit outscoring LCR teammate Alex Marquez.

In an interview with Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition, Nakagami gave a frank assessment when asked how he would grade his season, saying: “Maybe 2 out of 10. 

“It’s because with the momentum we had last year, both me and the team thought, ‘this year it will happen’, but instead we went backwards.

“Even though we had a lot of difficult races, there were still plenty of times that I should have gotten better results, which is why I am giving myself such a low grade.”

Nakagami’s season started off badly as he failed to score in either Qatar race, and while his fortunes improved with fourth place at Jerez and seventh at Le Mans, he managed just one other top-six result all season, in the Styrian GP at the Red Bull Ring.

Explaining his issues further, he said: “Like the other Honda riders, we didn’t have enough rear grip, and this affected the braking and made it hard to find a good balance. Essentially, we couldn’t solve this problem all season, and that was why I struggled so much. 

“There were some circuits where it was better, and we were able to have good races at Jerez and in Austria, but other than those nothing went my way and we couldn’t get any good results. It was a season full of struggles.”

 

Nakagami faces a critical 2022 season as his contract is up for renewal, and for the first time since he joined MotoGP he faces a credible threat for his Idemitsu-backed LCR ride in the form of standout Japanese Moto2 rookie Ai Ogura.

The 29-year-old identified mental strength as a key weakness to improve, and plans to address this with a new training regime between now and the start of pre-season testing.

“If I carry on like this [next year], the results will be the same,” said Nakagami. “I’m no longer at the stage where I need more experience, so if I can improve what I need to improve, the results should follow naturally. 

“Regarding my speed, I’ve still been able to show myself in practice, it’s not like I’ve just been constantly slow, and yet I haven’t had good results in the races. I think the feelings of pressure and adrenaline are quite different in qualifying compared to the race. 

“Therefore, it’s important to improve on the mental side, and by doing this I want to show my speed and strength next year. I have to recover and take a big step forward.”

Interview by Akira Nishimura

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