HRC has confirmed that Takaaki Nakagami will stay on the LCR Honda team for the 2020 MotoGP season, but also that the Japanese will undergo shoulder surgery after the home game in Motegi this weekend.
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Nakagami will therefore miss the last three races in order to be fully fit again for the opening pre-season test in Sepang in February.
There is no official word on who will replace Nakagami in the rounds in Australia, Malaysia and Valencia, but rumors are hot that Johann Zarco will take his place.
“First of all, I’m excited to be staying with Honda and the LCR team,” said Nakagami. “I have improved a lot this year and Honda has given me great support and given me a very strong package. I am sure that we can continue this together in 2020.
“About the injury, after the accident I had at Assen, I had some pain and a little strength in my shoulder. I went to the doctor to fully understand the situation and although I could ride with the injury, It was not ideal, so together with Honda and the LCR team we made the difficult decision to carry out this operation now. “
Although he barely mentions it, Nakagami is said to be suffering from a shoulder injury similar to Marc Marquez. The newly crowned eight-time world champion had an operation last December, but was only 50% fit at the beginning of the test phase and it took 5-6 months to reach full fitness.
With that timeframe in mind, Nakagami now has six weeks of recovery compared to Marquez.
Since Nakagami, who drives the only 2018 Honda, is currently twelfth in the world championship and has only been ninth since the summer break, he has little to lose if he skips the final laps.
#MotoGP Johann Zarco confirms to Moto Journal that he has been contacted by LCR to replace Nakagami during the final three GPs of the season in case Takaaki actually has shoulder surgery after Motegi. Tension!
– Thomas Baujard (@ThomasBaujard) October 11, 2019
But the biggest surprise is that former KTM rider Zarco has the tip to replace Nakagami.
HRC test driver Stefan Bradl would be the usual backup choice, and if HRC actually chooses Zarco, it will fuel rumors that Honda is considering the Frenchman as a 2020 replacement for struggling factory star Jorge Lorenzo.
Paddock gossip in Thailand indicated that Zarco was instructed to postpone signing a Yamaha test contract until the Lorenzo situation clears. The three-time MotoGP champion hasn’t made any tangible progress since his back injuries at the RCV in June, with a top 14th place over the last four laps.
But given Zarco’s problems with the similarly aggressive KTM, it would be a smart move for Honda to review how the six-time Tech3 Yamaha podium on an RCV fares before considering it for 2020 …
Although they are still under contract with KTM, the Austrian factory has made it clear that they would not stand in Zarco’s way should he find an alternative ride before the end of this year.
Following Nakagami’s deal, Zarco’s KTM replacement is now the only 2020 MotoGP seat officially available – CLICK HERE for the updated 2020 MotoGP roster.
But while Lorenzo is under contract with HRC until the end of next year, the ongoing performance gap with teammate Marquez means it wouldn’t be a shock if Honda and Lorenzo reached an agreement to part ways.
Nakagami had been pushing for the latest RCV machines to be used by the other three Honda riders next season, but LCR boss Lucio Cecchinello confirmed he will stick to a year-old machine.
“In 2020 Taka will compete with the RCV Factory motorcycle, which has just won the 2019 world championship title with Marc Marquez,” said Cecchinllo.
“The next season will be particularly important. Although we regret the untimely end of Taka’s season, we are convinced that the decision to undergo surgery after the Japanese GP is the right one so that he will be in his best physical condition by then Constitution can return. ” Time of the first test in Malaysia in February. “