Fausto Gresini, Daijiro Kato's only team boss during his full time Grand Prix career from 2000-2003, is on his way to Japan to say his final goodbye to the former 250cc World Champion.

Kato, a HRC supported rider from 1996, got his much deserved full time GP ride with the Italian team after winning the 1997 and 1998 250cc Japanese Grands Prix as a wild-card, and finishing fifth in the 1999 event.

In his first year with Gresini, in 2000, Kato made an instant impact with four GP victories on his way to third in the title chase, behind the dominating Chesterfield Yamahas of Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano.

With both Jacque and Nakano moving to the 500cc catagory for 2001, Kato was in a class of his own - with only Aprilia's Tetsuya Harada able to mount an occasional challenge - but even the former world champ couldn't stop Kato taking a record 11 wins that season, and claiming his first (and only) world crown at the penultimate round in Malaysia.

Gresini will doubtless look back on that emotional day in Sepang (pictured) with great pride in what was the pinnacle of their time together, but for now the pain of Kato's loss is too great for Fausto to feel anything other than a huge loss.

"There is very little to say. Myself and the team are on our way to Japan to say our final goodbye to Daijiro. He has died after thirteen days of deep coma. I don't know what to say. I am destroyed," Gresini told motogp.com.

Angel Nieto, the superstitious '12 plus 1' World Champion, worked closely with both Gresini and Kato in that 2001 title season, and has become the latest to proclaim the #74 as the greatest motorcycle racer Japan ever produced.

"He was, easily, the best Japanese rider I have seen in my life," said Angel. "He was on his way to becoming a superstar and he could have been the first Japanese MotoGP World Champion.

"Technically he was very good, his control of the bike was almost perfect. He was a real talent. As I say, he was going to be a real star. The death of Kato is a real shame for the motorcycling world. We will miss his quality and flair," added the Spaniard.

Kato's family are due to hold a private ceremony at their home tonight (Monday) followed by a funeral in Tokyo tomorrow.

Whilst Kato's funeral will also be private, Honda are planning a public memorial service in mid-May.

As a further mark of respect, Kato's 2001 and 2002 GP machines and the VTR1000 he and Colin Edwards rode to victory in the 2002 Suzuka 8Hrs have been put on display at Honda's Tokyo headquarters.