MotoGP rookie Takaaki Nakagami has reiterated his gratitude toward HRC and his LCR Honda team ahead of his home grand prix after earning a contract extension that will see him remain in the premier class in 2019.

Nakagami initially came into MotoGP on a one-year deal and even though team boss Lucio Cecchinello made his intentions of continuing their working relationship into next season known earlier this year, confirmation only arrived this week. 

Speaking in Thursday’s pre-event press conference, Nakagami, who currently sits 18th in the world championship standings after 14 races, said the LCR squad, run by ex-GP winner Lucio Cecchinello, “is like home.”

“Of course, I’m really thankful to Honda and HRC. Also to our sponsor Idemitsu for their great support. I’m really happy to stay with this team for next year. This team is like home.

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“The Team Manager Lucio is a great person so I’m really happy to stay in this team next season. Really I can’t wait for next season.

Nakagami has yet to achieve a top ten finish in his debut year in the premier class, but his speed in certain qualifying sessions - making his way into the Q2 shootout on four occasions - proves he certainly has the speed. 

The 26-year old two-time Moto2 race winner was one of three grand prix riders who took on local sumo wrestlers for the Japanese Grand Prix’s pre-event.

Commenting on the moment, when he was flanked by fellow MotoGP rookie Franco Morbidelli and Moto3 championship challenger Jorge Martin, Nakagami described it as an “amazing experience.”

“It was a nice experience,” he said of the meeting with the sumo wrestlers. “That guy was too strong! Me and Franco and Jorge Martin tried to push him but it was impossible. He was like a big wall!

“Anyway, I’m Japanese but I’ve never seen sumo. Just on the TV. But this time I had a good opportunity to see it close to the practice and it was an amazing experience for me.”

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