The motorcycle itself continued to mature with the shape of the upper cowl being altered by changes to the ram air duct, and a larger gap on the sides of the seat cowl. Mechanical changes led to a more powerful engine and the use of a new style clutch enabling smooth engine breaking. Honda's unique unit pro-link suspension also became more resilient. Team Telefonica Movistar Honda, managed by F. Gresini, invested in two riders, Spaniard Sete Gibernau from Suzuki, and Japanese rider Daijiro Kato. In the opening race of the season, Kato passed away after a tragic accident mid-race. The second race of the season, the South African GP, saw a tribute race by Gibernau to his late Japanese teammate, with the Spaniard adorning his motorcycle and suit with Kato's number 74. Gibernau gained pole position, but slipped into second from the outset of the race. He was able to regain the leading position from Ducati's T. Bayliss and withstand the chase from 2002 World Champion V. Rossi, also riding a Honda RC211V, to take out an emotional victory. Gibernau gained victories also in France, where he was joined by new teammate Japanese rider Ryuichi Kiyonari, and in Holland.