EWC: Nakagami expecting a different challenge in Suzuka

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MotoGP rider Takaaki Nakagami says he’s expecting a different challenge from last year’s 8 Hour race this year, when he jumps onto the endurance machine not from a Moto2 bike but from his LCR Honda MotoGP machine. Having to work hard to change riding style from Michelin and MotoGP to Bridgestone and production bike, he says that it came as a big surprise during the test last month!

“It’s been a little bit difficult to switch my style this year. The speed is much easier than when I switched from Moto2 though; when I jumped on it at the test I thought on the first outing that the bike was broken because it was very slow. I was going to come into the box to tell them, until I understood that that’s the speed of a superbike!”

2010 winner Nakagami lines up on Honda’s first full-factory entry into the race they started in many years, alongside Japanese Superbike front-runner and four-time winner Takumi Takahashi. They’ll also be joined by WSB rider PJ Jacobsen, substituting for Leon Camier after the Brit cracked his neck while testing at Suzuka.

But, after missing out last year on the chance to battle for the win thanks to a crash from the then-Moto2 rider, he says he’s going into this year’s race with a point to prove.

“We had a slow puncture, but the main reason we couldn’t win was my crash. I’ve been in anguish ever since, and I have to wait a whole year for my revenge, so to me, the Suzuka 8 hours is special. I was already looking forward to the race, and I was preparing even before I was selected for the team!

“My feelings toward the Suzuka 8 hours this year are stronger than anyone else’s. I can’t let last year’s result be the end of it, and I’ve waited a whole year. Apart from myself I also let Takumi down last year, so this year, especially as a Honda factory team, we just have to win!”

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer