The MotoGP grid is set to expand to 24 riders for the 2018 season. As had been widely expected, the LCR Honda team is to add a second bike for next season, with Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami moving up to MotoGP. Nakagami will operate alongside Cal Crutchlow in the LCR Honda team.

Like Crutchlow, Nakagami’s contract is directly with HRC, rather than with Lucio Cecchinello’s LCR squad. Unlike Crutchlow’s deal, however, Nakagami’s contract is only for 2018 at the moment.

Nakagami’s wages will come directly out of Honda’s pockets, but the bike will largely be funded by money from Idemitsu, the Japanese oil company already backing Nakagami in Moto2.

Nakagami has been a very up and down rider in Moto2. The Japanese rider has one win and 12 podiums to his name, and has at times shown outstanding speed.

At other times, however, he has been faceless, circulating in mid-pack at best. He currently sits seventh in the Moto2 championship, 128 points behind leader Franco Morbidelli.

With Nakagami signed, seats are filling up fast. There are officially four empty slots left on the grid now: the second seat at Marc VDS, the second seat at Aspar Ducati, and the two Avintia Ducatis. The Aspar seat will go to Karel Abraham again.

Marc VDS is likely to come down to a choice between Sam Lowes, ousted from Aprilia, Stefan Bradl, who is desperate to escape the clutches of the Red Bull Honda WorldSBK team, and Tom Luthi, the only man keeping Morbidelli honest in Moto2. A choice could be announced as early as this coming weekend.

The two Avintia Ducati seats also have favored candidates. Tito Rabat looks set to take one of the two bikes in that garage, after parting ways with Marc VDS.

Belgian Moto2 rider Xavier Simeon is widely tipped to take the second seat in the Avintia team, with rumors of big-money backing helping to open doors for him. Like Nakagami, Simeon also has a single victory in Moto2, but his record is a good deal more modest otherwise.

Source: Honda

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.