MOTORCYCLE HERO: DAIJIRO KATO
Motorcycle riding is a sport made for adrenaline seekers. It is incredible to think about the speed some of these riders achieve during a competition, not to mention how dangerous it can be if something goes wrong. Many racers have experienced some form or motorcycle injury, some worse than others. Sadly, not all of them have lived to tell their tales.
Daijiro Kato was born in Saitama, Japan on the fourth of July 1976. His interest in motorcycles started as soon as three years old. His parents bought him a pocket bike for his birthday, and not long after that, he would begin to compete in pocket bike races, and would soon become a four-time national champion.
In 1996, Kato debuted in the Grand Prix as a wild-card rider for the 250cc class on the Suzuka Circuit, where he won third place. The following year, Kato won the Japanese Championship and the Japanese Grand Prix. Kato set a new win record in the 250cc category with 11 wins, as well as most points in a single season, with 322.
On March 2003, Kato had achieved his dream of bringing the joy of motorbike riding to a younger audience; thus the Daijiro Cup was launched, a pocket bike race organised at the Akigase Circuit and sponsored by Delta Enterprise.
On April 6, 2003, Kato participated in the Japanese Grand Prix which meant his return to the Suzuka Circuit. It was here that Kato had a fatal crash which resulted in severe injuries to the chest, neck and head. Upon further investigation, the Accident Investigation Committee determined that before his crash, Kato lost control of his bike causing it to oscillate, after which he hit the side barrier. His head hit the foam barrier, dislocating the base of the skull from the cervical spine.
Kato had been in a coma for two weeks before passing away from a brain stem infarction at the fragile age of 26. Many MotoGP riders paid tribute to Daijiro Kato in the South African race by wearing a small #74 on their bikes or leathers. Satoshi Motoyama, Kato's childhood friend, has worn a #74 on his helmet ever since his friend's passing.
Despite Kato's early passing, many riders remember him fondly as a happy and friendly person whose achievements speak for themselves. His legacy lives on with the young mini bike racers as well as the safety measures put in place in the Grand Prix.
Daijiro Kato Victories
Years active: 1996 - 2003
First Race: 1996 Japanese Grand Prix (250cc)
First Win: 1997 Japanese Grand Prix (250cc)
World Championship Win: 2001 (250cc)
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