Sombre mood for Welkom GP

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This weekend’s second round of the MotoGP world championship at the Phakisa Freeway in Welkom, South Africa, will not have the usual celebratory atmosphere. Instead the sport will collectively bow its head in respect to Daijiro Kato who died earlier this week from the injuries he received in his crash at the opening round in Japan.

All of the promotional partying and showing off that usually takes place before each GP has been cancelled and riders are expected to attend a series of meetings with officials instead.

Kato was buried in a private ceremony in Tokyo yesterday attended by around 1500 people, including his friends and family, fellow riders, and senior representatives from both Honda and his team.

Honda plans to hold a public remembrance ceremony in the middle of May at its headquarters in Tokyo but in the mean time has opened an exhibition to commemorate the rider. On show will be photographs, memorabilia, and several of his previous bikes including the NSR250 that won him the title in 2001.

Reigning champion Valentino Rossi was deeply upset by the events at Suzuka. He said: " Our thoughts are with Kato’s family and friends and we can only hope that the whole GP world learns something from this very bad situation and acts on it. As for the race in South Africa, I can only hope to do my best and will do my job as a professional. "

Fortuna Yamaha team director Davide Brivio added: "It is difficult to think about racing now that we have heard this news. Our thoughts go to Daijiro's wife and children, as well as his team. We have to go on and race in South Africa now, and I think that is what Kato would have wanted."

Phakisa Freeway’s high altitude, bumps, and relatively low grip mean that it has gained a reputation for being a difficult track to set the bikes up for, so it may prove a difficult round for the teams with completely new machines.

Despite starting the season with better than expected results Ducati’s new MotoGP team is not so optimistic about the South African round. They have never been to the circuit before and aren’t confident that the tight track will suit the Desmosedici V4.

Free practice starts at 8am, UK time, on Friday. Qualifying is on Saturday with the first race at just after 9am on Sunday. Check back regularly for updates on the weekends events and all the news from the pit lane from our GP reporter Matt Birt.

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff