Katoh & Ukawa were team mates for the ‘00 edition of the 8 Hours race, they won comfortably with a 1 lap lead over the 2nd placed team it was Katoh’s first victory (another one would follow in '02), Ukawa grabbed his 3rd (2 more would follow, in '04 & '05)
I can put my first memory of MotoGP in today ten years ago… Japanese GP of 2003, in Suzuka.
I still can remember… Daijiro’s crash being shown in national news. I still can remember how suddenly I was able of remember it, though I shouldn’t do it, because I didn’t care about MotoGP in that time. It was the first time I heard about of it, in fact.
And then during those two weeks, hearing about… he on comma, with critical state… I was still too young, with just ten years old, I didn’t understand, the only was… “he’s not fine”. I didn’t understand that he would die anyway… and as you know, in the end it happened. That April 20th.
As said a lot of riders, the race had to stop… as said Rossi and everybody, Suzuka was already too dangerous, and they weren’t able of solve it in time… and then Suzuka became the place of the sudden end of probably one of its best children. Did you know that Daijiro loved Suzuka, it was his favourite track? Destiny sometimes is so wry and bastard.
That crash became a breakpoint, and because of that, it was necessary to do a lot of things for improve safety in MotoGP. Right now, I remembered some crashes in 2012 season, who were very violent and similar to the one who killed Daijiro… against a wall… but because all those improvings, the riders now would be able of survive and being fine. But the same story as a lot of similar situations: They don’t do a shit unless something terrible happens, as with this, with Daijiro.
It’s sad and unlucky that when I want to place my first memory about MotoGP, it has to be on there. I really, really hate it. But I don’t reject it, I don’t hide it anymore, because this is my truth. My only truth.
Do you know why I chose this photo?
Because I don’t want to remember the saddest things. I would prefer this funny, cute photo, of him pointing to the camera. Yes, even in Suzuka 2003, before of that race, but still, a very funny photo.
He was like that, as shown in photos, videos… as said as people who met him personally… he was like that, funny, cool. He’s one of the few people I would call “fucking boss”. He won my respect as a rider, that one who kicked the asses of everybody in 2001 season in 250cc. That one who got a podium on his debut in Suzuka 96 of 250cc, and the following year, he would get in the last corner of last lap of Suzuka 97 the victory, from the hands of Harada and Ukawa. But also, he won my respect as a person, as the funny, cute guy who had stupid photos on his website, who dedicated a place to his cats on the first version of his official website, the one who seemed to be the only who painted something serious in a ceramics event before Motegi 2002 and had a fangirlish cameraguy saying “Kato-san, Kato-saaaaan, Kato-saaaaaaaan”.
Yes, April 6th is a very sad day, but do you know, dear Dai-chan? Yes, I miss you, but you were so fucking awesome that to cry over you would be so unfair.
I would love to have you winning as my first memory. But it was impossible. But still, I can research and I can talk random stuff and spread the love.
And despite my lack of luck I can admire you. You deserve it. I chose to remember and I am not alone.
Daijiro Kato, Fortuna Gresini-Honda NSR500 & RC211V, 2002 FIM MotoGP World Championship
as an HRC backed rider Daijiro Kato was granted the use of a factory NSR500 in his rookie year, ‘02, but after the summer recess, at Brno he was given a new four stroke RC211V with which he completed the season he stunned the world with a 2nd place finish during his first weekend on the RC211V at Brno & after some bad luck managed 2 more 4th place finishes at Phillip Island & Cheste to end the season in 7th place, becoming 'Rookie of the Year’