New footage has shown just how close MotoGP rider Takaaki Nakagami came to a potentially fatal injury when his helmet visor was ripped off by an opponent’s tyre.
The Catalunya Grand Prix will go down in history for the most bizarre of finishes when Aleix Espargaro began celebrating his second-place a lap early, only to be passed by fiver riders before realizing his mistake.
The race was bookended by a similarly strange event as the lights went out at the start, with a three-driver pile up at turn one.
LCR Honda’s Nakagami dropped the front end of his bike heading into the corner, wiping out Alex Rins, and last season’s championship runner-up, Francesco Bagnaia.
Suzuki’s Rins broke his wrist after being catapulted into the air, while Nakagami spent the night in hospital, but things could have been far worse.
New footage released by MotoGP shows Nakagami going head first into the rear wheel of Bagnaia’s Ducati, with the speed of rotation firing his head into the bike seat.
The Japanese rider had his visor ripped off by the impact as his head flew back, and luckily bounced away from danger.
But Nakagami was lucky to avoid damage to his eyes, or even breaking his neck, as race winner and reigning champion Fabio Quatararo said the worst could have happened.
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“It was not a racing incident, because you don’t attack that much,” the Frenchman said.
“I don’t know how it is possible that Pecco [Bagnaia] was second and Nakagami was far away, how he can arrive to touch his head on the wheel of Pecco.
“It’s not a racing incident. I think in the first laps we all need to be conscious that we are racing big bikes, that the weight is a minimum of 160 kilos and if you get hit by a bike like this you can pass away.”
Second-placed man Jorge Martin was in agreement, saying: “For me, it’s not a racing incident. I think they should have penalized Nakagami already in Mugello, because he wasn’t penalized and now he thinks he can do anything.
“So, now he does it again and if they don’t penalize him, he will do the same in the next race.
“So, it’s dangerous for the rest. He broke Alex Rins’ wrist, he also risked something important for himself, which was his head.”
Rins is now likely to miss track time after fracturing his wrist, and had a stern warning for his competitor.
The Spaniard said: “Well, sincerely, first of all, I hope that Taka is OK, because I saw him with the face [in pain] very bad. But he cannot go on like this. He cannot ride like this.
“You never want that a rider, that a rival gets injured, OK… but he was over the limit in that action. This is the first thing I want to say.
“But the second thing is, it’s unacceptable. We cannot go on like this. The race direction, the stewards, make zero sense what they say.
“It’s crazy. For sure, and today they demonstrated it on TV, that the stewards are not on the level of MotoGP.”
It was confirmed by the local hospital that Nakagami only suffered pain in his right shoulder due to the incident, but narrowly avoided ‘serious head injuries’.