Keith Huewen: ‘Takaaki Nakagami is not a dangerous rider’

A dramatic start and finish to the Catalunya MotoGP headlines this week’s MotoGP podcast featuring Keith Huewen.
Rins, Nakagami, Bagnaia crash, Catalunya 2022
Rins, Nakagami, Bagnaia crash, Catalunya 2022

Takaaki Nakagami triggered a multi-rider pile-up when he fell under braking for Turn 1, the Japanese taking down Francesco Bagnaia when his head hit the Ducati’s rear-wheel while Alex Rins was collected by Nakagami’s bike.

The incident left Rins with a broken wrist, Nakagami with a night in hospital and Bagnaia to nurse yet another major blow to his title hopes.

“It certainly could have turned out a lot worse and thankfully it looks like Taka is going to be okay,” said former grand prix rider and British champion Huewen.

“The Stewards deemed it a racing incident - and I agree. I think most people will agree with that, although maybe not if you're Alex Rins!

“But it wasn't like Taka was rushing up the inside of anybody, he didn't look like he was gaining any real momentum under braking for turn one.

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“What you’ve also got to remember from a rider’s point of view, is you are accelerating from your grid position into turn one for the first time of the entire weekend. No one gets a practice start from that position. Even if you gas it up coming out of pit lane, it’s not the same.

“So the first time is in the race and it’s down to sight and feel. They barrel into turn one for the first time, with a full tank of fuel and have to get it all anchored up and fight for position.” MotoGP editor Peter McLaren added: “And the key point as to why there was no penalty from the Stewards was that, yes, Taka made up lots of positions heading into turn one, but he made them up in acceleration. He didn’t brake super, super late.

“The added dimension was that Rins and Nakagami had clashed just a week before. Had it not involved those two again, things might have been a bit calmer afterwards.”

'Taka is not a dangerous rider'

Huewen continued: “The Stewards decision was also consistent with other first lap incidents.

“You can feel sympathy for Rins, he was absolutely furious, a third DNF in a row, this one not his fault at all and when he’s fighting to find another ride for next season.

“But the teams could have protested the Stewards decision if they wanted clarity on the decision. They didn’t and we also saw, for the first time, a detailed explanation issued publicly by the Stewards as to why there had been no penalty.

“The Stewards will have viewed all the overhead positions, which we might not even see on TV, they've got so many angles, they can see whether anybody's done anything a little bit stupid.

“And Taka is not a dangerous rider. He doesn’t have a history of first turn mistakes like that. So it was a typical first lap incident in my book.” MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen

On the subsequent criticism Nakagami received from the likes of fellow riders Rins, Bagnaia and Johann Zarco, Huewen added:

“Look, this is not flower arranging. Everybody's out for themselves. There are going to be situations on track that create tensions in the paddock. But my view is, who cares?

“Takaaki Nakagami is fighting to stay in MotoGP. Yeah, it was a mistake. It was a racing incident. Of course, you shouldn't go skittling people at turn one, but occasionally it does happen.

“Nobody in racing hasn't overstepped the mark into turn one at some stage or another. They may have got away with it. But the other extreme is what happened with Taka.

“Hopefully, he will make a full recovery. He was very, very lucky. When that helmet went up behind the wheel of the Ducati and smacked itself under the seat - it was horrendous to watch.

“He is a very lucky man to have survived it. I don't think that's too strong a thing to say. So get well soon Taka.”

Podcast host Harry Benjamin then steers the discussion towards Aleix Espargaro’s huge end-of-race error, a faultless victory for Fabio Quartararo, Pramac Ducati’s double podium, Marc Marquez's surgery and the Moto2/Moto3 races, before selecting a range of listener questions.

Download Episode 49 at the following links...

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