Takaaki Nakagami will remain with LCR Honda for the 2020 MotoGP season after his contract was extended by HRC.
The Japanese rider has signed a new one-year contract, which puts him in-line with the majority of the field.
HRC also confirmed that Nakagami would miss the final three races of 2019. He has been suffering from a shoulder injury, and will undergo surgery after this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Commentating on his new deal, and injury, Nakagami said:
“First of all I am delighted to stay with Honda and the LCR Honda IDEMITSU Team. I have been able to improve a lot this year and Honda have shown me great support and given me a very strong package. I am sure together we can continue this in 2020.
“About the injury, after the crash I had in Assen during the race I found myself in some pain and lacking a bit of strength in my right shoulder. I went to visit Doctor Mir twice in Barcelona, and more recently I had an appointment with Doctor Hiroyuki Sugaya at Funabashi Orthopedic Surgical Hospital in Tokyo to fully understand the situation. While I have been able to ride with the injury, it has not been ideal. So, we made the difficult decision alongside Honda and the LCR Honda IDEMITSU Team to have this operation in Japan straight after my home race”.
This is Nakagami’s second season in the premier class, following six seasons in Moto2. He has eight top 10 finishes, including a best result of fifth at Mugello. He currently sits 12th in the championship, riding the only 2018-spec RC213V Honda.
Nakagami has requested to have up-to-date machinery in 2020, like the three other Honda riders. However, team boss Lucio Cecchinello confirmed that the 27-year-old would remain on a year-old bike. He said:
“In 2020, Taka will compete with the RCV Factory motorcycle that has just won the 2019 World Title with Marc Marquez.
“Next season will be particularly important so, although we are sorry about the early end to Taka’s season, we are convinced that the decision to undergo surgery after the Japanese GP is the correct one, so that he can return to the best physical condition by the time of the first test in Malaysia in February.”
It is not yet known who will replace Nakagami for the final three rounds of the season. However, it has been suggested that Johann Zarco may take his place. The Frenchman parted ways with KTM a few weeks ago, and has not yet revealed his plans for 2020.
Zarco was expected to become a test rider for Yamaha, however he has now been linked with Repsol Honda. Jorge Lorenzo has another year on his contract, however he has been unable to make any progress and continues to struggle with the bike. The relationship between Lorenzo and HRC is also strained, following public criticism from both parties.
Zarco stepping in for Nakagami would certainly fuel speculation that he may be at Repsol Honda next year. Currently, the only 2020 seat still officially available is Zarco’s vacant ride at KTM.
Stefan Bradl is also likely to be in contention to be Nakagami’s replacement, given his role as Honda’s test rider.