Takaaki Nakagami has agreed to a two-year HRC MotoGP contract extension and will be upgraded to the latest Honda machinery next season.

The Japanese cleared up the grey areas generated by an earlier HRC announcement, which spoke vaguely of a new contract for "2021 and beyond" and gave no mention of bike specification.

Nakagami remains at LCR, his home since joining MotoGP in 2018, where he will be joined by new team-mate Alex Marquez. But while he has so far raced with year-old machines, all four Hondas of Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez and Nakagami will be the "same package" next year.

This is what Nakagami had to say about the future deal, as well as his thoughts for this weekend's second Aragon round, including comparisons with last Sunday's runner-up Alex Marquez's data and opinion on the new Ohlins rear shock…

'Another two years, I will ride the latest bike'

"Yes, another two years fixed for the future. Now I can focus on the last four races. As always or main goal, first step, is to get the first podium this weekend. And if I can also win the race I'd be more than happy.

"For next season, I can say I will ride the latest bike. I mean four bikes exactly the same. So this is good news for me. Last three years I rode the previous [year's] bike. For next season, also the regulation are not the same as usual [engine freeze until 2022], but yeah, Honda say the four bikes – of Marc, Alex, Pol and me – same package, same bikes.

"It's good. I'm really happy and now it's time to show our real potential and if we can beat the Repsol team, I mean fight with the factory team, it would be nice. I can't wait for next season and I believe with this team, Giacomo and all my staff, we can do it.

"Still we didn't talk about 2022 [bike yet] just that for the next season I'm able to use the latest bike."

'I negotiated with HRC myself'

"I don’t have a manager. In the past also, I negotiate with Kuwata-san as always. It's very simple but for the future I'm thinking to have a manager and then it becomes easier. Because now before the weekend I have to knock on Kuwata-san's door, 'this weekend we can talk?'

"It's normally after the race because also on my side I don’t want to talk about the future during the weekend. But I lose a lot of time, sometimes I'm not available, sometimes Kuwata-san is not available. So for the future I'm thinking to have a manager."

'Small differences between me and Alex'

"After [last weekend's] race I saw Alex's data, we compared all 23 laps from 1-23 and I can see some small differences between me and Alex. All weekend he was riding pretty well, but the gap is so close, just two tenths between the best lap time of me and Alex. These two tenths is really big but on the graphic it's almost nothing.

"He had a little more cornering speed and good pick-up of the bike in some areas. But only this. I can’t see just one point, it's all small details that finally make two tenths. It's good to understand. We are ready to adapt and improve for this weekend.

"Of course they are different bikes between the Repsol team and mine. So we cannot compare completely. But for the set-up, we can see the different height of the bike balance, with the chain force, a little bit different balance.

"Still I have a little bit of wheelie and less contact on the front, so we tried to adjust the bike, maybe front height a bit lower, to get a little more front contact everywhere. This is a key point. Because when I feel the front contact is a little bit less that is when I lose the speed.

"Let's see the track conditions. It's raining now [Thursday evening]. And the race time is 1pm not 3pm. It should also be a little bit warmer this weekend, but the earlier time means I think the track temperature will be the same.

"But if the temperature is 5 degrees different we'll need to think about a different tyre option because the soft rear was on the limit last weekend. So I'm thinking to try the medium or even hard option this weekend."

'I lose out in first 10 laps'

"Alex is doing very well, especially after the Misano test I think he got something, I mean I hear the bike [had] some update and change the setting and he tried to adapt because there are no other test days this season. Then he became faster and faster and now he understands how to adapt to the Honda bike.

"Especially Aragon is a good track for Honda and he put everything together. He was really impressive last weekend, also during the race, he was one of the most consistent. I was too, but he was faster than me in the first 10 laps and I couldn't close the gap.

"It's easy to see and say that I lose in the first 10 laps if I compare with Alex's data especially last weekend. One thing I found is that I couldn't bring the performance at the beginning, because near the end of the race, in sector 3, I had the best time. On one hand it's good on another not.

"I must bring the maximum performance at the beginning when there is more grip and the bike is feeling good. Because Alex is doing everything at the beginning of the race. Also braking pressure in some corners, I was not stable.

"Especially when I was behind somebody like Jack or Quartararo. I changed riding, a little bit too smooth and this is the worst point for me. I have to become more aggressive behind some riders.

"Alex was more aggressive behind somebody, if he saw some space he tried to put the bike inside and was able to overtake. This is where I have to improve and really important because MotoGP is so tight now. If you lose a few tenths behind other riders the race becomes difficult.

"If we can understand and improve I think we can have a podium very soon.

"Alex is doing well, Cal after the injury and arm pump looks good and is riding pretty well on the data, so hopefully we are trying to put together and HRC is building up the bike step by step, with the starting device [etc]. The performance of the bike is getting better step-by-step. So at the end it depends on the riders.

"I don’t know if Marc will be back at Valencia or Portimao, but for sure the bike is good and when Marc comes back he is 100% able to fight for victory."

New Ohlins shock: 'If first impression positive, I keep it'

"At some tracks, it's quite easy to understand that it's pretty positive but sometimes I don't feel a difference, so just for the 'safety' we go back to the standard one. Because it's easy to lose the way and lose time.

"So if I feel the first impression is quite positive, we keep using it. But if I feel some corners yes, but some no. So I'm not sure, we always take it off. We decide quite simply like that.

"For me the corner entry is not a huge difference but when I have a positive feeling [with the shock] it's on braking but also the exit. When the rear shock starts to get more [weight] transfer it's more smooth and not so springy.

"Spin is still there, but I can feel how much percentage spin is there. So it's more smooth, less pumping. Also in braking there is a little bit of extra grip, but if too much grip on the rear it's not easy to lean the bike. So everything is delayed. If I feel this, we always take off [the new shock] and go back to the standard one.

"It's something interesting and the potential is there, but everything in MotoGP is so close, so if you have to adjust many things on the bike [to make it work], then it's difficult to use."

 

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