Honda extends Nakagami deal, confirms early end to campaign
Takaaki Nakagami will remain an LCR MotoGP rider in 2020 but will skip the final three races of 2019 due to a planned shoulder surgery, Honda has announced.
The 27-year-old's impending absence means KTM outcast Johann Zarco is set to come into the LCR line-up for Phillip Island, Sepang and Valencia, as reported by Motorsport.com.
Nakagami had stepped up to MotoGP last year after a six-year tenure in the intermediate class, and currently rides a year-old RC213V entered by LCR with the backing of Japanese petroleum company Idemitsu.
He bagged a career-best fifth place at Mugello and eight other top-10 finishes during the current campaign, and sits 12th in the standings heading into what will be his final race of the year - his home grand prix at Motegi this weekend.
"First of all I am delighted to stay with Honda and the LCR Team," Nakagami said. "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 I found myself in some pain and lacking a bit of strength in my shoulder. I went to the doctor to fully understand the situation and 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 Team to have this operation now."
Honda's statement suggested Nakagami will also sit out post-season testing activities due to the shoulder operation "warranting an extensive recovery period".
He will instead target being fully fit for the opening 2020 pre-season test in Sepang.
Nakagami had been pushing to get 2020-spec machinery for next season, but his efforts have been unsuccessful, with LCR confirming that Nakagami will continue on a year-old bike.
"We are delighted to continue this project with Takaaki Nakagami, and hope to build even further on his impressive performance in 2019," LCR team boss Lucio Cecchinello said.
"Taka has demonstrated the ability to fight in the top ten of the MotoGP world championship every race weekend and together with HRC we will set the goal of taking another step forward.
"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."
His confirmation means the KTM works ride alongside Pol Espargaro currently remains the only unfilled spot on the 2020 premier-class grid.
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