Takaaki Nakagami feels ‘extra pressure’ to save speed

Takaaki Nakagami says the early European rounds of the MotoGP calendar will put “extra pressure” on him to try and salvage his LCR Honda seat for 2023.

The Japanese rider’s contract expires at the end of 2022 and his place is currently under threat from young Moto2 star Ai Ogura.

Ogura has achieved three podiums with Honda Team Asia since moving up to Moto2 in 2021 and is currently second overall.

Nakagami’s Idemitsu-backed side of the LCR garage is set up specifically for a Japanese rider, with Ogura – whose Moto2 team is also sponsored by Idemitsu – being the only logical candidate to replace him should Honda decide to part ways at the end of 2022.

In four years in MotoGP with LCR and Honda, Nakagami has failed to achieve a podium and has only managed to finish best-of fourth three times.

The 2022 season has got off to a disappointing start for Nakagami, who has just one top 10 to his name on the LCR-run, works-backed Honda, and the pressure is mounting on the Japanese rider to try and salvage his place.

“I’ve had pressure from Qatar to be honest,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com if the start of the European season in Portugal this weekend has increased the pressure on him to perform for the sake of his future.

“But the last four races – Qatar, Indonesia, Argentina, America – obviously weren’t the best performance. Just the one top 10 finish in Qatar.

“I wasn’t looking for those bad results. Now from Portimao, Jerez, those two races are really, really important for me to get my confidence back. Then I have to show the team and HRC that I have the potential, that I’m fast.

“So maybe it’s some extra pressure but at the same time I’m looking for my confidence to come back. So these two races will be so important going forward.”

Takaaki Nakagami, Team LCR Honda

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Nakagami added, “Also, I don’t want to fight for the top 10. At least we can fight for the top 5, top 6.

“That’s the bare minimum. Of course, if we then have the chance or extra confidence, we can fight for the podium. So as a first step we need to bring that potential back because with the new bike, this bike has potential.

“So you have to be competitive all weekend and not make any mistakes.”

Nakagami’s LCR teammate Alex Marquez is also out of contract with Honda at the end of 2022.

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