Idemitsu LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami claimed top independent honours at Assen this afternoon after qualifying fourth on the Dutch GP grid.
Two-tenths separated Nakagami from the front row in his best qualifying performance of the season - with only Jerez and Le Mans coming anywhere close, having recorded a fifth and seventh respectively.
While the Japanese rider has remained firmly inside the top-eight across the TT weekend so far, with only the rain-struck session on Friday afternoon breaking from the pattern, Nakagami admitting to finding a good feeling and rhythm on his Honda during Saturday’s midday practice and is confident of his prospects ahead of the 26-lap race.
“I had a good feeling on the bike and it looks like we had a good pace with the medium compound in FP4,” the 29-year-old said from the Assen paddock on Saturday.
“Definitely I cannot use the harder compound on the rear, because for me it’s too hard and it takes a lot of laps to warm the tyre, so definitely it’s not the right option for the race for me but medium compound looks okay.
“I have the confidence for tomorrow’s race. Definitely the two Yamaha’s, Viñales and Quartararo, look one step ahead, they look to have good pace and are really consistent. Will be very difficult to even follow them but I want to try. I want to try my best from the beginning and the important thing is to make the best start then try to follow them. This is what I have to do for tomorrow’s race. I have nothing to lose and I want to bring maximum performance all the race and that’s it.”
With Assen off the calendar in 2020, the LCR riders’ history with the iconic track doesn’t make positive reading after finishing second to last in 2018 and being taken out at turn eight by Valentino Rossi as they battled for the top-10 on the championship’s last visit. Nakagami, however, seemed unfazed by previous events, choosing simply to focus on a much more positive outcome tomorrow.
“Difficult to compare in the past because everything is different, we are very close to the top” he explained.
“I have no flashbacks about 2018/19 years. Just make it simple. From P4 I’m starting with a good opportunity to fight them for a podium finish. This season, this was a really weak point for us, the qualifying session. We are not arriving even on the second or third row, was a really difficult session for us but this weekend looks good. So I try my best.”
Nakagami also believes Marc’s victory last weekend at the Sachsenring provides extra motivation to the Honda riders, despite the eight-time champion struggling throughout this weekend.
“He did, so now I want the same good results” he said, simply.
“This weekend it looks like my turn. I want to give great results for the team and also for Honda,” he concluded.