Takaaki Nakagami says he is “very disappointed” to miss out on a debut MotoGP rostrum after running out of fresh tyres for the restarted Styrian Grand Prix.
The LCR Honda rider continued to display great speed at the Red Bull Ring following his solid sixth place from the Austrian GP last weekend, the Japanese racer qualifying a career-best second for Sunday’s Styrian contest.
He ran third for most of the encounter in the leading group of three also comprised of the leading Joan Mir’s Suzuki as well as Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller, who Nakagami passed for second shortly before the red flags were shown after Maverick Vinales crashed out at Turn 1 after losing his brakes.
Much like Pol Espargaro’s compromised victory bid due to a red flag period in the Austrian GP, Nakagami and his LCR outfit failed to preserve enough fresh rubber for the restarted 12 lap sprint-forcing him to start on worn tyres relative to most of his rivals on fresh rubber.
He duly slipped back to seventh by the time he took the chequered at the end of the restarted race, leaving the two-time Moto2 victor wondering what could have been, admitting “it was easy” to circulate within the leading group throughout the initial contest.
“I had everything under control in the first race (before restart), it was easy to stay in the top group with Joan (Mir) and Jack (Miller), I was really calm and staying behind Jack to save fuel and preparing for the end of the race, I was trying to not spin the tyre.
“It was quite easy to follow him, I was just trying to work out when to attack as Joan had already passed Jack and pulled away quite far, although not too much.
“Then with 14 laps to go I felt he started to pull further away so I decided it was time to move on, so I started to attack Jack and then after a few laps felt that I could win the race because the lap-time was there and I felt really good on the bike, but then the red flag came out.
“The second race was compromised as I didn’t have any new tyres, so we had to go for used tyre front and rear, and most of the other riders had new so they had a bit more grip so the second part simply wasn’t our race.
“I gave it my best, but of course I’m very disappointed to finish P7 but as I said this was the race but overall I’m happy with the whole weekend, we’ve been really strong so lets see what happens at Misano and hopefully we can show our speed next time.”
Nakagami currently remains Honda’s only hope for success following the news of reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez remaining out of action for another two to three months while he continues to recover from a broken right arm, while his other Honda stable-mates struggle for speed on the tricky RC213-V.
Factory rider and rookie premier class racer Alex Marquez is currently classified 15th in the riders standings with 15 points, while Nakagami’s LCR team-mate Cal Crutchlow is 22nd having bagged just seven points so far after picking up a broken scaphoid ahead of the season-opening Spanish GP at Jerez.
This compares to Nakagami’s sixth overall having scored an impressive 46 points so far, his improved form relative to a solid but unspectacular sophomore ’19 campaign coming after making a breakthrough with his riding style on the Honda after learning from Marc’s data at Jerez.