Takaaki Nakagami became the first full-time Japanese in MotoGP in a long time in 2018, but after five years he may have his place in jeopardy - at least at LCR Honda - with compatriot Ai Ogura emerging in the Moto2 World Championship.
The #30 has been slow to make the expected competitive leap, especially after a strong 2020 season in which he achieved a pole position and was a regular presence in the top ten. The start of the current season did not bring encouraging results, with the tenth place in Qatar being the best of the four rounds already played.
In the Moto2 World Championship, Ogura is in his second season and is second in the championship, having already been on the podium twice and is one of the strongest contenders for the title. The rider is linked to Honda, through the Idemitsu Honda Team Asia, and therefore MotoGP could well be on the horizon in the near future.
So far, a possible switch of Japanese riders by LCR Honda in 2023 is pure speculation. Alex Márquez, the other rider of the team, will also have to 'show service' to deserve the MotoGP spot that he has had since 2020.
When it comes to the Japanese in particular, the differences between Nakagami and Ogura in the promotion classes are evident. Nakagami has spent seven seasons in Moto2, in some of the strongest teams, and has managed no more than two wins and has never been a regular in the front-running positions.
Ogura's trajectory is very different. The 21 year-old has a consistent record in Moto3, where he was third in his second season in 2020 before moving up to Moto2 and being a regular presence in the top ten in his debut year. In 2022, as already mentioned, he has started with a strong performance - which includes two podiums and second place at the moment - for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia which has been far from successful in the class.
With Nakagami coming to the end of his contract and many potentially interested in a potential vacancy, it is almost certain that results will be the most important factor in the 2023 race. For now, and also because the season is at a very early stage, everyone will still have time to prove their worth and arguments in the fight for places next year.