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Daijiro Kato has died, aged 26

By Dan Moakes
May 6 2003

Sadly, the news has come through that, following a serious crash in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka that put him into a coma, Daijiro Kato has lost his battle for life. The following profiles a phenomenal racer.

Daijiro Kato
nationality · Japanese
born · 4 July 1976
died · 19 April 2003
grand prix début · 1996

A supremely talented 250cc racer, with seventeen victories to his name, Daijiro Kato was thought of as a future MotoGP champion, and likely threat to Valentino Rossi. Sadly, Daijiro lost his life following a serious crash in the first Grand Prix of 2003, which left him critically injured. A quiet man who liked to sleep before going out to race, he will be remembered as the most dominant 250 title winner in history.

1979
Began riding ‘Pocket Bikes’

1984
Made racing début

1985
Japanese Pocket Bike Champion

1986
Began racing ‘Minibikes’

1988
Japanese Minibike Champion

1989
Japanese Minibike Champion

1990
Japanese Minibike Champion

1991
Japanese Minibike Champion

1992
Road racing début; competed on 125cc and 250cc motorcycles

1993
Débuted in Japanese championship racing, with a Honda

1994
7th in All Japan 250cc championship, with a Honda; first big win at Aida

1995
5th in All Japan 250cc championship, with the number 7 Honda
Also finished twelfth in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Terry Rymer

1996
2nd in All Japan 250cc championship, number 5 Honda; World Championship 250cc début
Ran as a wildcard at Suzuka, on the number 74 Team Kotake Honda, finishing third first time out

1997
All Japan 250cc Champion, number 2 Honda; 250cc World Championship, number 35 Castrol Honda
Again had a single wildcard appearance, at Suzuka, but it proved to be his first ever GP victory
Also finished ninth in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Yuichi Takeda

1998
8th in All Japan 250cc championship, number 1 Honda; 250cc World Championship, number 54 Castrol Honda
For the third year his only GP was as a wildcard rider, at Suzuka, and again he was good enough to win it

1999
2nd in All Japan 250cc championship, number 100 Honda; 250cc World Championship, number 51 Castrol Honda
Once again he entered the Japanese GP as a wildcard, but his fourth start in the race saw him finish ‘only’ fifth
Also finished eighth in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Makoto Tamada

2000 Axo Honda Gresini, number 74 Honda
After several years as a proven winner on 250s, Daijiro finally contested the World Championship in full for the first time. He was in the top six on thirteen occasions, including three thirds, two seconds, and wins in Japan (twice), Portugal and Brazil. He also qualified on the front row nine times, and was third overall on 259 points
Also won the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Tohru Ukawa

2001 Telefónica MoviStar Honda, number 74 Honda
With his ‘learning’ year out of the way, Kato was unstoppable in 2001, beating a strong Aprilia squad that included Tetsuya Harada and Marco Melandri. He won a record-breaking eleven times, and added two more podiums for good measure. Altogether he qualified in the top three on fourteen occasions, and won the title by 49 points, with 322
Also finished fourth in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Tohru Ukawa and Makoto Tamada

2002 Fortuna Honda Gresini, number 74 Honda
Daijiro was now rewarded with a 500cc MotoGP machine, and picked up a fourth and a second within three races. At mid-season he was the third man to get hold of an RCV, and he put the bike on the front row five times in seven outings. He also raced it into the top five at four different meetings, with another second place coming first time out. He finished the year seventh overall, on 117 points
Also won the Suzuka 8 Hours again, this time with Colin Edwards

2003 Telefónica MoviStar Honda, number 74 Honda
Kato qualified eleventh at Suzuka, and ran seventh in the race, but was left in a coma when his bike crashed heavily into a wall. His injuries were severe and, unfortunately, he was not able to survive them. A great motorcycle racing talent has been lost


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