Takaaki Nakagami has set himself lofty expectations heading into this weekend’s Styrian MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring after feeling a big step forward in performance compared with a week earlier during the Austrian MotoGP at the same venue.

Much like he was at Jerez where he followed up a tenth place finish in the opener with a career-best run to fourth the following weekend, Nakagami is putting the lessons of back-to-back events to good use to lift his 2019-spec LCR Honda RC213V further up the timesheets.

Though he got as high as second quickest in FP2, Nakagami says he felt more comfortable in the cooler temperatures of FP1 as he ended the day fifth overall, giving him confidence he will go markedly quicker in the crucial Q2-deciding FP3 session.

“The bike is working well and much better acceleration, especially this morning,” he told reporters. “This afternoon we struggled, the track temperature changed, it was close to 50-degrees on the ground and also the feeling on the bike it was difficult to make a lap time and be consistent, but at the end we used a new tyre and medium tyre for the race pace, not so bad.

“I felt much more confidence than last weekend so at the end of the session with the soft new tyre is always a little bit faster but everyone is really close. It is hard to go below 1m 24s, not easy to do 23, but we did a great job today in the morning and afternoon.”

While Nakagami’s place on the 2021 MotoGP grid hasn’t been formally confirmed, he is widely expected to land the available LCR Honda seat alongside the already announced Alex Marquez, getting the nod over current team-mate Cal Crutchlow.

Nonetheless, as one of only two riders to finish inside the top ten in all four rounds this season – the other being Fabio Quartararo – the Japanese rider has been validating his rising status in the HRC fold.

For now though he is simply focused on landing his maiden MotoGP podium, which he thinks could be as soon as this weekend.

“We are not talking about next season because now we are step-by-step close to the podium and the first thing in myself is I want to get a podium,” he continued.

“I think this weekend is a great opportunity to try and attack for the first podium I want to really focus race-by-race because this season is a special season, almost no rest and always after one week we have a race so now is August, normally it is time to start negotiating for the future but in myself I want to keep this moment.

“If I can get a first podium this weekend, it’s [good] for next season but I want to focus race by race, I don’t want to think about the future in this moment.”

 

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