Honda’s satellite team LCR is entering its twenty-fifth year of participation in the premier
class category, but could this be the year they finally challenge for a championship?
The team’s line-up certainly seems promising.
Will LCR miss Crutchlow?
Their ‘senior’ rider will no longer be Cal Crutchlow, who retired from active racing and currently engaged as the Yamaha test rider. Takaaki Nakagami, the only Japanese rider in MotoGP, and the empty spot filled by Alex Marquez, a Rookie last year who took two sensational back-to-back podiums. Nakagami will be entering his fourth year in the series and does so off the back of some incredible results.
Young but fast team!
In the Japanese rider’s Rookie year, Nakagami struggled with the change to bigger machinery. He scored only thirty-three points ending up twentieth in the championship. 2019 saw him take a big step, scoring consistently within the top ten until a massive crash with Valentino Rossi in the Dutch TT. This caused him a shoulder injury damaging his form and retiring from the championship after the race in Motegi. Nevertheless, he scored an impressive seventy-three points, more than double what he achieved in his rookie season.
Following successful shoulder surgery and the unfortunate injuries to both Marc Marquez
and Cal Crutchlow, Nakagami emerged as the surprise leading light for Honda, scoring
consistently in the top ten (and mostly finishing just off of the podium) throughout last year.
Nakagami took pole position at the Teruel GP, making him the first Japanese rider in
sixteen years to achieve such a feat in the premier class. Ending the 2020 season with 116 and making it into the top ten in the championship standings.
Nakagami on Factory spec Honda for 2021
Nakagami’s endeavours within MotoGP have all been achieved with the rider on year-old spec machinery and single-season contract deals. Due to his impressive performance last year, Nakagami has secured his first multi-year contract deal and will now be given factory machinery, not that it will make much difference for 2021. Could the security of Honda’s trust mean that Nakagami is able to deliver his first-ever Moto GP podium?
Will Alex Marquez win the championship?
Looking at the other side of the garage, Alex Marquez comes into his second year in Moto GP following a fairly strong show of skill. The 2019 Moto2 World Champion was placed within the factory Honda team for his Rookie season, with the retirement of Jorge Lorenzo. Before he was even given the chance to shine, the Repsol Honda factory team signed Pol Espargaro for 2021, shunting Alex into the satellite team. This meant that Marquez had a point to prove – and he did it with style.
Whilst initially struggling with the move up to MotoGP, Marquez came alive at Le Mans. A wet race in MotoGP is always a spectacle. The tricky circumstances mean it is difficult to predict who will hold their nerve the best. To finish first, you must finish – with six riders in with a chance to win the championship, not many were taking risks.
But Alex Marquez has nerves of steel. He made his way from eighteenth on the
grid to take a stunning second place for his first-ever top class podium. He then went on
to amaze again at the following race, taking another second-place finish at his home GP in
Aragon. These were also the only podium finishes for either Honda team in last year’s
championship, and I am certain he will be looking to silence any remaining critics this season.
The LCR Honda Castrol/Idemitsu team this year will have one of its strongest line-ups it has ever seen, and I personally think they could be the surprise contenders this year. If consistency is the key to a world title, Nakagami has shown that in spades. He has impressed and improved every year he has participated in the championship, and with more support from the factory, he’s my outside bet. Whilst in Alex Marquez, I certainly see a future world champion, and with the space to learn in a friendly, but hungry team, he’s definitely going to be a podium threat. Only time will tell of course, but if this year proclaims Takaaki Nakagami the World Champion, well you heard it here first!
This article was written by the fantastic Rebekah Lee, our resident Motorsport nut and MA Creative writing graduate. She’s been fascinated by all things motorsports since childhood – follow her on Twitter at @bekahjlee
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