Nagashima spent four full seasons in the Moto2 World Championship, starting the 2020 season in perfect style with victory in Qatar and a podium next time in Jerez.
But his form slipped away thereafter, although he still managed a career best eighth in the standings, Nagashima was unable to retain his Red Bull KTM Ajo seat and stepped away from grand prix racing.
The 30-year-old was then hired for MotoGP test riding duties by Honda and shared the track with Crutchlow during a recent private test at Motegi, where Nagashima will make his MotoGP race debut as a HRC wild-card this weekend.
“You’ll be surprised with Nagashima, he was a rocket at the test,” said Crutchlow. “Really fast. Really impressive and he did a great job. He’s a nice kid and he was riding really, really well at the test. So it’ll be good to see him this weekend have a wild-card.”
With the Japanese Grand Prix missing from the calendar since 2019, due to Covid restrictions, the test riders present this weekend – Crutchlow (Yamaha), Takuya Tsuda (Suzuki) and Nagashima (Honda) – have a slight advantage over the MotoGP regulars in terms of track knowledge.
However, the Englishman – who was 14th and top Yamaha at Aragon, after Fabio Quartararo’s early exit – doesn’t expect the testing to give him much of an advantage.
“July was the last time I was here. We did a two-day test but we’re only allowed a certain amount of time, you only get about an hour and a half on the bike each day,” he said. “The track condition was poor. It was 40-something degrees and we were testing the 2023 bike, so irrelevant to be honest.
“But [in terms of] track knowledge, yeah, [at least] I’ve had a few laps around here this year. It’s definitely got a little bit bumpier and the grip was not great.
“Obviously it’s different because at the test it was only me, Tsuda from Suzuki and Nagashima from Honda. It’s so difficult with rubber not being on the ground.
“But it was definitely a little bit more slick than when I was last here [racing]. You couldn’t touch the kerbs. Here you brake on the kerbs quite a lot and you could not brake near them, let alone on them. But it was a good test.
“I like Motegi, the track’s good. I like Japan, great country. So I’m pleased to be here. We’ll see how the weekend goes. I was happy with last week. The team were happy and Yamaha we’re happy.
“We were pleased because I was way faster than last year and I found some things in the race that we can improve on. And following the other bikes is one of the main things, looking for where they have an advantage or where we have an advantage.
“I want to keep the positives of the bike that we have this year into next year’s bike. And it’s always important when you’re [on track] with other people, because when you’re in a test, I’m riding against myself.”
To allow extra time for the freight to reach Motegi from last weekend’s Aragon round there will be only one (extended) free practice session on Friday, starting at 15:05.