Takaaki Nakagami has expressed pride at landing his maiden MotoGP World Championship pole position under the weight of expectation at Motorland Aragon as he looks ahead to challenging for not only his first podium at this level, but also a first win.

One of 2020’s standout performers on the 2019-spec LCR Honda RC213V, Nakagami is now the only rider to have finished each of this year’s ten races inside the top ten. This metronomic consistency means that even though Nakagami isn’t one of the 15 riders that have stood on the podium this year, he ranks fifth overall, a modest 29 points off the top spot.

His maiden pole position comes in a timely manner, just two days after he was officially confirmed to be staying with LCR Honda next season and will be upgraded to spec-RC213V machinery. Moreover, his run to pole came after he ranked first or second in each of the four preceding practice sessions, making him hot favourite to grab the top spot despite having only once started on the front row.

The first pole position for Honda this season too, Nakagami says he didn’t expect such scintillating pace but says he has been feeling very comfortable for this weekend’s second outing at Motorland Aragon.

“It is an amazing feeling, I never expected to fight for pole position. If we can fight for the front row [then we are doing well] but this weekend we have been competitive, we can fight for the front row but in the end we made a good lap time and when I showed the first sub-1m 47secs it was a good feeling. 

“The bike is really good, so I am more than happy. I want to say thanks to my team, I am proud to be in parc ferme with P1 so we hope to continue this performance on Sunday.

“Our pace is quite competitive and it was a surprise for us because we didn’t change anything from last weekend. We are not decided which tyre to use for the race but good pace, this is the most important thing.

“I have some strategy but these two guys (Franco Morbidelli and Alex Rins) are really strong at the beginning of the race, I hope I can make a good start. 

“I want to enjoy the race because I have the first pole position and on Thursday we announced a new contract, so now no stress, more freedom.”

Nakagami’s pole position is the first achieved by a Japanese rider in MotoGP since Makoto Tamada in Valencia 2004, while any win tomorrow would be the first since the same year when Tamada was triumphant on home soil at Motegi.

“I don’t remember the race well but I was told the last Japanese person on pole was Tamada-san in 2004, so 16 years ago is a long time. I have a great friendship with Tamada-san and I was always following him on TV and he was always fighting for the races. I’m proud to get the pole position, so next step is to get the win.”

A victory tomorrow would not only mark a famous maiden win, but it’d be the first trip to the podium for Nakagami since his debut at the start of the 2018 MotoGP season. He would also become the ninth different race winner in 11 races in 2020

 

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