Takaaki Nakagami says he still doesn’t “know why I lost the front” after insisting he was “quite under control” while trying to catch and pass Pol Espargaro’s KTM for third.
The LCR Honda pilot launched his customary late-race charge as the Valencia Grand Prix entered its final third, closing onto the rear of Espargaro with designs of catching race leaders Franco Morbidelli and Jack Miller in order to try and avenge the victory opportunity he lost after crashing early in the Alcaniz GP last month.
Nakagami looked clearly quicker than the KTM through the long left hander of Turn 13, the Japanese pilot electing to fire down the inside of the Spaniard with nine laps remaining, though disaster would strike for the second time in three weekends as the front of his RC213-V slid out from underneath him.
He subsequently slid off into the gravel-narrowly missing Espargaro who remained on his outside-to record his second DNF of the year.
Nakagami admitted that while he decided ahead of the Valencia that he “couldn’t play it too safe”, he felt “comfortable” with his machine as he closed on the leading trio and “doesn’t know why” the front of the Honda folded on him in the moment.
“I cannot say (for certain what caused crash) as I was quite under control, the strategy was much better than last weekend and my feeling on the bike was comfortable,” explained Nakagami.
“I didn’t feel confident with the front tyre in the first five laps, and also the conditions were tricky especially with the tailwind pushing down into Turn 1.
“Then on lap five or six I got a track limits warning because I’d already touched the green (on corner exit) three times, so after that I tried to ride safer at Turn 1 to not get any more warnings, and then after ten laps I felt better with the bike and I could push a bit extra.
“I could see that the gap to Frankie (Morbidelli), Jack (Miller) and Pol (Espargaro) was getting closer lap by lap so I knew I had to keep pushing, I had to give my best because after I saw that last week I tried to save the tyre too much and thought too much about the end of the race.
“I decided that this race I couldn’t play it too safe, if the opportunity was there I had to push, it was good strategy and at that moment I was quite under control, I was easily the fastest in sector four and could see the gap I could reduce through the final long left corner at Turn 13.
“I prepared the move to out-brake (Pol Espargaro) at the last corner, but I still don’t know why I lost the front, of course it was my mistake and I apologise to my team but I did my best.”
An optimistic Nakagami added that he “won’t change my strategy” heading into this weekend’s season finale at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal-MotoGP’s first visit to the venue-declaring he “really wants to win a race”.
“OK this time I had a crash but at least I’ve got no injury, and I’m really looking forward to the next race in Portimao,” continued Nakagami.
“We’ve got no data from Portimao so we’ll start from zero, but the HRC test team, I think (Stefan) Bradl did a test so we have some data but for sure we’ll be adjusting many things during the weekend, so we’ll be busy.
“As always I won’t change my strategy and we’ll try to aim for maximum performance all weekend, I really want to win a race and now I have another opportunity so we want to try and be strong to take it.”
Nakagami’s second non-score in the last three contests has seen him drop from an outside chance of the title heading into the second Motorland Aragon encounter to ninth overall on 105 points with only the Portuguese GP remaining.
A strong result could lift him ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller into eighth, though seventh placed Pol Espargaro’s 17 point cushion over the two-time Moto2 winner looks most likely to be a bridge too far.
He does at least remain the highest classified Honda rider in the points standings, 38 points clear of 2021 LCR team-mate Alex Marquez, the reigning intermediate class world champion having himself suffered two crashes in the past three events.