Scuderia AlphaTauri Formula One driver Yuki Tsunoda and LCR Honda IDEMITSU MotoGP rider Takaaki Nakagami have gone head-to-head in a karting challenge ahead of this weekend’s MotoGP event at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Misano Adriatico, Italy. Here’s everything you need to know:
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The event was the first meeting for the Japanese motorsport stars, who both moved from their homeland to Italian shores in search of world championship success. The day also included a tour of the Scuderia AlphaTauri factory, with Tsunoda giving his countryman a rare insight into the world of Formula One.
In the 2021 Formula One season, 21-year-old Tsunoda became the first Japanese driver to score points on his debut and has re-signed to race again with Scuderia AlphaTauri in 2022. Meanwhile, 29-year-old Nakagami is in his fourth MotoGP season and will aim to secure his eighth successive points finish this weekend.
Despite growing up just two hours apart from each other around the Tokyo region in Japan, this was the first meeting between Tsunoda (Kanagawa Prefecture) and Nakagami (Chiba Prefecture).
The meeting between the two Japanese competitors was possible due to the MotoGP World Championship stop in Misano, just one hour from Tsunoda’s home in Faenza, landing in the one-week gap in the Formula One calendar between Grands Prix in Italy and Russia.
Following a meeting at Tsunoda’s residence, the young Formula One driver provided Nakagaami with an in-depth look at the Scuderia AlphaTauri factory, including the 2020 AT01 Formula One car. The pair then headed to the karting track where Tsunoda challenged Nakagami to a one-on-one race, with a ticket to this Sunday’s MotoGP on the line for Tsunoda.
An enthused Tsunoda praised Nakagami’s karting driving skills, before speaking of his own admiration for MotoGP. “Taka was doing a really good job; he drives well and I’m impressed with him. The last 12-lap race was intense and we had lots of crazy battles. I’m really looking forward to the MotoGP, it’s going to be my first time. How they go straight, especially at speeds over 350kph with a bike, it’s completely crazy. So, I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait!”
For Nakagami, the excitement came from testing his skills against an F1 driver. “I had a lot of fun because for a long time I didn’t drive a kart, but yeah it was really fun especially with a professional F1 driver. This weekend is going to be a really important race because it’s the home GP of my team and I also like the Misano racetrack, I have great memories there, so we hope to have a great weekend and as always try our best. Hopefully, we can fight for the top positions.”
This weekend’s MotoGP race at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli is the 14th of 18 rounds for the 2021 season. Nakagaami sits 13th in the standings and is just 15 points away from breaking into the top 10 in the championship, that position currently occupied by fellow Honda rider Marc Marquez (ESP).
Tsunoda’s next outing on track will come at next weekend’s F1 Russian Grand Prix in Sochi which is the 15th of 22 scheduled rounds for 2021.