Japanese MotoGP racer Daijiro Kato died in hospital on Sunday, two weeks after suffering head injuries in a horrific accident at Suzuka.

Japanese MotoGP racer Daijiro Kato died in hospital on Sunday, two weeks after a horrific accident at Suzuka.

The 2001 250cc world champion had been in a coma since the crash. He suffered serious head, chest and neck injuries after he spun off into a barrier on the third lap of the race.

"The whole team are close to his family in their time of grief," said a statement from the Telefonica Movistar Honda team. "The team manager Fausto Gresini and several members of his staff will be flying to Japan for Kato's funeral."

His death was the first in the sport since Nobuki Wakai, was killed at the 1993 Spanish Grand Prix. The 26-year-old leaves behind his wife, Makiko, two-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter.

"I am in full, deep grief after hearing about the death of Kato, who was one of the top riders in the world and represented Japan. He impressed fans with his brilliant achievements," said Suguru Kanazawa, president of Honda Racing Corporation.

Kato made his motorcycling debut in 1992. He finished third in the 250cc race at Suzuka behind Max Biaggi. He won the 250 cc title in 2001 and also set new records for the most wins in a season (11) and the highest total points scored in the class. He stepped up to the 500cc division in 2002, with a best result of second place.