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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
And we still know nothing about the crash...

Ukawa was about 12 feet back. He first said he thought he saw contact between Kato and "another rider". Since Bayliss had passed Checa in the previous lap and was now over 100 feet in front of the pack of three, the other rider could only be Checa.

Now Ukawa is saying he must have been mistaken and Checa says nothing. In any case no one has reported how Kato fell or what he hit or what hit him.

Kato, you were a great rider and promised to be greater. We fans owe you more than we can pay. The sport, the track, the business and your fellow riders owe you and us more than they are willing to pay.

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From Colin Edwards' Web Site

It seems as though the best commentary I have seen on this is on the forum at Colin Edwards' web site (

Several days ago, someone there posted a link to an amature video of the crash scene. ( history1.MOV?CFID=678473&CFTOKEN=95113491). I have been unable to download anything but the sound track, but Colin Edwards was able to view it frame by frame and offered the following analysis:

Author: Colin Edwards II

Date: 04-17-03 12:40

Well, I watched the video and have come to this conclusion. It looks like he has already lost the rear and it has snapped back as he comes into the picture. Kato is clearly pointed right as you go frame by frame. If you look at Checa behind him who is going straight Kato is visibly facing right. This happens for those of you that don't understand I'll explain. Kato is exiting 130R which is a left hander. As the rear slips it compresses the suspension and rebounds back toward the inside. A few frames later you can see it has snapped back straight but the tankslapper begins and from this point you are just along for the ride.

Don't quote me on any of this, but I'm glad I got to see the video. In my mind all the speculation of what might have happened (the blame game) is out the window. All the best to Kato and his family and if they should see this video I think it will ease the pain.


For the the best Kato eulegy I have seen, by Dan Vitale (this is also posted on MCN and MotoGP sites):

Author: Dan Vitale

Date: 04-19-03 15:50

My heart has just broken. Daijiro is gone.

I remember tuning into watch the 1998 Japanese grand prix wanting to see how Mad Max Biaggi would do on his first outing on an NSR500. Would Max be the one to challenge Mick Doohan for his crown as Mr 500? That day Max won his first GP on the Marlboro Kanemoto bike. But he wasnt the rider who impressed me that day. There was this little crazy fast-as-hell 250 rider who won that day. A Wildcard on the Castrol Honda NSR250 by the name of Daijro Kato who royally kicked the likes of Shinya Nakano, Tetsuya Harada, Olivier Jacque, Loris Capirossi and Jeremy McWilliams's arses. He was awesome. The name Kato was one that I would look out for, and get to respect and like. Both his amazingly calm, precise and ultra quick riding style and his reserved personality sort of charmed me to some respects. He was the kind of rider whose sound of silence would be used to devestating effect. He dominated the 250 scene once he was given the bike to do so, on the way he charmed me even more by doing a big burn out right in front of us to celebrate his Donington 01 victory. He was a quintessential 250cc rider, whos only non-mechanical DNF was an unavoidable crash into Marco Melandri.

It was natural progression for Dai-chan to go up into the big class, he was a rider who was genuinly Japan's biggest chance of a World Champion at the highest level. His only perceived weakness being a lack of confidence in the wet, but as Valentino Rossi proved, even the best can come from being a poor wet weather rider to a great one. In 2002, Kato got the first chance to impress on the first non-Repsol squad RC211V at Brno, and he did straight from the off. However, his best performance of last year in my view was his fantastic second place at Jerez, pushing and overtaking Tohru Ukawa. NSR500 beating RCV211V. Stunning.

This year was going to be a massive year for Daijiro. His first year on the same specification Honda as Valentino Rossi. Tragically, what happened happened.

Up until today I couldnt think about watching Suzuka again. Something inside of me said that to move forward, sometimes you have to take a step back. I watched the race again, saw Kato wave at the camera to say Hi to us all when sat on the grid, and right now I am saying goodbye to him.

Being only 26 years old, Im not used to death in Motorsport. I live in a generation where racers dont die at a rate of three or so a year, like F1 was back in the days of Graham Hill, Jim Clark etc. Days like May 1st, 1994, when Ayrton Senna died at Imola not 24 hours after Roland Ratzenberger died at the same track (the first F1 deaths in 12 years) shocked me, and Ive seen of two of my favorite racers Greg Moore and Dale Earndhardt die in races. However safe you try and make racing, racing will never be safe. I think thats what im trying to say.

Daijro Kato was a father to two, and a family man. He looked to be a quiet, reserved person at the track, and a blindingly fast, ultra talented rider who was Honda's best chance for a homegrown MotoGP world champion, Japan's first.

My heart is broken. I cant say anything more than that. I loved Kato as a rider. He died doing what he loved, professionaly what he was best at. Personally, I pour my best wishes and feelings towards his widow, and his two children. They will grow up without a father, but with pride and dignity that they can call themselves Kato.

Daijiro Kato, you will never be forgotten by me and many others. Your memories will remain with me forever.

#74, go and join #7 at the great track in the sky. You and Barry's personalities would be like chalk and cheese, but you would both make a dynamite racing duo.

God bless you.


Then from noted journalist Tracy Hagen, who adds his perspective on Kato as a rider, and also on the accident as well:

Author: Tracy Hagen

Date: 04-20-03 01:27


A great tribute to a great man.

On the night after the Suzuka GP I stayed late in the press room, as did many Japanese journalists as we waited the latest word from the hospital. I asked the Japanese journalist I shared a table with regarding if 'Daijiro' meant anything in Japanese. She said 'dai' meant big, and 'jiro' was a traditional Japanese name for a male. Thus 'Daijiro' roughly translates into English as "big boy" or "big name." How appropriate.

The first time I paid any attention to Kato-san was at the 1994 8 Hours. Kato was a reserve rider, but started the race after a factory rider had to pull out. A then 17-year-old Kato, in his first superbike ride, was dicing with the leaders in the first hour when he lost the front between the hairpin and Spoon curve and hit the damn wall. The fuel tank split and a fireball erupted, drawing the red flag. Kato cracked his C-7. I thought that was it for him that time.

Then a couple years later, 1997 or so, I was watching qualifying for the 8 Hours. A bored Ben Bostrom was hanging with me in the press room, watching one of the other groups pound laps on the monitor. Bostrom told me to watch this guy on the monitor, he was setting the fastest superbike laps ever at Suzuka, at that time. It was Kato, of course. There was a helicopter following Kato around the course. Kato was leaving about a foot or two of space to the white line all the way around the circuit. Ben couldn't figure out how he could do that; i.e., go that fastest and not use all the track.

The next day at the press conference I finally see who this Kato guy looks like. Well, he is about 40 cm shorter that I am. I think he is shorter than Jimmy Filice, really. I thought Kato wasn't even old enough to ride a street bike.

Regarding the grainy video we have all been looking at the last few days...

Colin, your comments about the video are much appreciated. What has troubled me a great deal about Kato's horrible crash is that I haven't seen anything like that at Suzuka before (for others, I have covered every 8 Hours since 1991, five GPs at Suzuka, and even a 200K race - I figure I have watched more hours of Suzuka motorcycle racing than any round eye in the world). All tracks have their points where riders go down frequently. Coming out of 130R factory guys often put a black line down from the rear tire, the exhaust silencer shakes a little, but that's about it. From the monitor it looks like ease the bike up, roll the throttle on, and motor up the hill. I can't remember ever seeing a rider highside out of 130R. Strange.

Over the winter the 130R was re-shaped. The exit looks a little longer now; that is, you have the bike in a long, gradual turn before the track finally gets straight again. Colin, is that a change for the better or for the worse?

Second question: on race day there was a stiff wind blowing, generally as a tail wind for the front and back straights (don't be confused readers, the figure of 8 layout of Suzuka results in the wind affecting both straights about the same). Exitting 130R the wind would have been blowing cross track, with bikes leaning in to the wind. Do you suppose wind might have been a factor, keeping in mind that Kato once told me he weighed, like, 55 kg?

I would like to respectfully address a couple other thoughts about this terrible tragedy that I have read in others' postings.

During all my years of covering the 8 Hours for Roadracing World, Cycle News, and American Roadracing, nearly all of the visiting American riders have said what a safe track Suzuka Circuit is. Thus I was a bit surprised when Valentino Rossi branded Suzuka as dangerous in the front row press conference. I asked Rossi to please expound on his feelings, and he was most concerned about the area where Melandri broke his ankle (between the hairpin and Spoon). I totally agree with Rossi on that point, as well as agree with Rossi's idea that maybe it's time to place a chicane there or something to prevent the fall line from being aimed at the wall.

The crazy thing about Kato's crash is that the wall he hit was on the inside side of the track at the exit of the curve. How many people would have expected that to happen?

I expect Suzuka, on their own initiative (remember the track is owned by Honda) will add run-off room, grading, whatever makes sense to add another level of safety there.

But even after they do that, guys are still going to fall and hurt themselves. It's an unfortunate byproduct of racing. Heck, guys even crash in drag races. Or at Bonneville, where the walls are ten miles away.

The other comment I have is reminder for all to keep an open mind about what might have been the cause of Kato's crash. When professional investigaors, like in the Columbia tragedy, analyze a wreck they go through a three-step process: first, gather all available evidence, data, observations, etc. on what happened. Second, using inductive reasoning, brainstorm all the possible causes, even if they sound a outlandish at first. Lastly, using deductive reasoning, determine which possible cause best explains the evidence, data, and observations. This best fit is deemed the most probable true cause.

Hopefully the FIM and Honda will have reached a conclusion by the South African or Jerez GPs on why Kato crashed.

But the enlightenment that will bring will not lift the darkness from Daijiro's death.


Tracy Hagen

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Re: From Colin Edwards' Web Site

So apparently he lost it while passing Checa, but Checa didn't notice. I could cry.

Thanks, Bob. I needed your post badly. This is all so sick.

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Re: From Colin Edwards' Web Site

To view the file use QuickTime. A .mov file is a QuickTime file and will not play with Windows Media Player (I am assuming that is what you attempted to play it with). Here is the link:

You don't have to register if you uncheck the "I would like to receive..." box.

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Beauty and Grace.

Motorcycle racing to me is the most beautiful of the racing sports. The beauty and grace of motorcycle racing seduces you to forget the inherent danger. The riders at the MotoGP level make it look so easy. Time after time they fall and get up to race another day. I marvel how they can overcome things that would be disasterous to us regular guys. The death Kato reminds how brave and talented these riders truely are.

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Re: From Colin Edwards' Web Site

Thanks -- I should have realized that. I just assumed it was something to do with my crappy, slow and unreliable dial-up connection. I am now downloading the quickplayer -- looks like it will take about an hour and one half! Gotta get a dish connection ASAP!

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I'll never forget a post-race interview I saw with Kato after a podium finish of his. While I don't remember his words, I do remember his incredible up-beat personality and permanent smile. I also remember him holding his child in his arms the whole time. I was so impressed with him as a person, he became one of my favorite riders immediately. I was so saddened to hear of his bad crash - my thoughts turned immediately to his wife and family. Now, I'm thinking even more of them. His wife must have been living in fear of this day every day, and now her worst fear has been realized. His children... My heart goes out to them. I feel so badly that his family and the world has lost such a great person. My only comfort is knowing that he does have children who might grow up to be of the same caliber.

Rest in peace Kato, and god bless you and your family.
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