Takaaki Nakagami sprung a surprise to end his rookie year as a MotoGP rider on top of the timesheets during the final day of 2018 testing, at Jerez.

The LCR Honda rider, third fastest on day one, posted a 1m 37.945s on his 63rd of 66 laps to edge out none other than Repsol Honda's reigning world champion Marc Marquez by 0.025s.

"Of course, I'm really happy to end the season like this," Nakagami said.

"I didn't expect P1. This is only a test, so I don't know how much the other riders' give. Some people 100%, some 80%. But at the end of the day we did the best lap time, a 1m '37 is quite a high level and P1 is good to see."

Comparing his pace to Marquez, Nakagami explained: "In some sectors I'm stronger than Marc, but especially sector 3 he is the best and two tenths faster than me.

"In sector 2 I was 0.2 faster than Marc, so this combination. But I want to see the data to see which area, I want to compare the riding style."

While Marquez was comparing next year's 2019 prototype with this year's bike, Nakagami's situation was 'simpler'.

The Japanese, who took a 2017-spec RCV to a best finish of sixth in this year's world championship, was handed team-mate Cal Crutchlow's 2018 spec bike from the Valencia test and feels it’s a significant step forward.

"From the Valencia test we've kept on Cal's 2018 bike. It's difficult to say how many percent [it's better]but it's a big jump," said Nakagami.

"The power delivery has improved a lot, especially middle to top [RPM] you can feel more power. On the bottom end it feels a little more easy to ride, more sweet, and that's why with the used tyre the lap time is much more consistent than last year and with a high level. Many '38s, many low '39s.

"Here we've tried to focus on the rear grip. The set-up is improving and the feeling is better than yesterday. So it's quite simple to make a positive or negative and I'm really happy about the result.

"Especially the rear grip on exit of the corner. From the apex to the first part of turning and we'll try to keep working on this area."

And might such performances lead to increased Honda support for 2019?

"Of course, maybe first priority goes to Repsol, but if we continue to make a strong race maybe some items can be brought to us.

"But anyway, at this moment I'm really happy about the package of the 2018 bike.

"I know Cal, Marc and Lorenzo use 2019 bikes, but it's not a big gap like 2017-2018. Maybe 2018-2019 is a much closer gap. So we will see for the future."

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