Paris: Marco Simoncelli's death at Sepang in October cast a long shadow over the 2011 MotoGP season, the gifted Italian's untimely passing a shocking reminder of the ever present dangers attached to the sport. (Agencies)
The tragedy, which followed one year on from the death of Japanese teenager Shoya Tomizawa, robbed the grid of one of its brightest and quickest stars.
Simoncelli, the flamboyant 2008 Moto2 world champion with the distinctive Jimi Hendrix hairstyle, was making waves in the top division in what was only his second season.
Two pole positions and two podiums for Honda augured well for the popular rider's future title prospects.
Casey Stoner, who only the week earlier was crowned 2011 MotoGP world champion at home in the Australian Grand Prix, led the tributes to Simoncelli at Sepang, saying: "When something like this happens you remember how precious life is."
Another MotoGP colleague and friend, Andrea Dovizioso, commented: "Marco was a courageous rider and he always fought hard. We've battled on the track since we were kids. I often saw him fall off but without any harm. He appeared indestructible."
Sepang was the penultimate leg of a year which saw Stoner claim his second MotoGP crown.
The Honda rider took the title in Phillip Island after his closest rival, defending champion Jorge Lorenzo, crashed in practice.
The Spaniard had to be flown back to Madrid for surgery to reattach the ring finger on his left hand, leaving Stoner to power to victory in a wire-to-wire win on his 26th birthday.
Second across the line that day was Simoncelli in what was to be his best ever performance in MotoGP.
Stoner, who claimed his first MotoGP title in 2007, enjoyed a standout season.
The Honda ace made the podium in every race bar Jerez, wrapping up the year in the best possible fashion with victory in the season-closing race in Valencia.
That was his 10th win of 2011 and it was achieved in memorable style as he pipped American Ben Spies on the line.
Stoner's points haul of 350 was 90 clear of Lorenzo, with Dovizioso ending up with 228 points in third.
Multiple world champion Valentino Rossi had a quiet time by his standards, the Ducati man coming in seventh, tied on 139 points with his fallen compatriot, Simoncelli.
In Moto2 the crown went to Stefan Bradl of Germany, the Kalex rider triumphing when his sole rival, Marc Marquez of Spain, pulled out of the title decider in Spain.
Bradl laid down his marker for the season when rattling off wins in four of the first six races.
Marquez hit back with six out of seven wins but the 2010 125cc champion was then kyboshed when he fell in testing in Sepang, forcing his no-show in Valencia.
In 125 the crown went to Aprilia's Spanish rider Nicolas Terol when he took second to 16-year-old sensation Maverick Venales, who finished third in the standings, in the season-closer.
Terol will be remembered as the last ever 125 champion as the category is reborn next year as Moto3.
MotoGP also undergoes a transformation with the introduction of 1000cc bikes to replace the existing 800cc engines.
Stoner, for one, is seduced by the idea of gunning for his third title on the bigger model, describing the new engine as "fantastic with incredible acceleration".
Paris: Marco Simoncelli's death at Sepang in October cast a long shadow over the 2011 MotoGP season, the gifted Italian's untimely passing a shocking reminder of the ever present dangers attached to the sport.