This weekend's San Marino MotoGP will be an emotional event for the Honda Gresini team, with the renamed Misano circuit forming a focal point for tributes and memories of much-missed local star Marco Simoncelli.
Simoncelli, a former 250cc world champion and MotoGP podium finisher in his second year of premier-class racing, lost his life in last October's Malaysian Grand Prix.
The renaming of the San Marino GP venue to 'Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli' was just one of many tributes to the charismatic 24-year-old, whose Gresini team raced in black for half of this season.
Simoncelli lived in Coriano, a stone's throw from Misano on Italy's north-east coast.
“It is going to be a weekend of strong emotions,” said team principal Fausto Gresini. “For our team, Misano has always been a special race, because our Race Department is just a few kilometres from the circuit, but this year things will be really different.
“The many initiatives to celebrate Marco's memory and the naming of the track after him will ensure this. It will be very difficult, but I hope that the guys and our riders can honour our friend with positive results.
“I am convinced of the commitment of everyone will be at a maximum, because Marco's memory lives on in all of us and he will help us to perform a miracle at his circuit.”
Alvaro Bautista will carry Gresini's MotoGP hopes on Sunday. After a mid-season blip, the Spaniard has returned to the top six at the last two rounds.
“Misano will be a different race for many reasons, said Bautista. “It is Team San Carlo Honda Gresini's home track and this will be the first time that we ride there since it was renamed after Marco Simoncelli. I can't wait to get on track and try to get a good result.”
Michele Pirro paid tribute to fellow Italian Simoncelli in perfect fashion by winning last year's Valencia Moto2 race, the event following the tragic Malaysian round.
Pirro, now riding Gresini's new CRT MotoGP entry, said: “This weekend at Misano will be very special. It is the home track for the team and holds Marco Simoncelli's name, so we will have a lot of emotion that we will use as motivation to have a great race."
MotoGP will also remember the life of Shoya Tomizawa, who lost his life in the 2010 Misano Moto2 race.
The street leading to the Misano circuit is named after Daijiro Kato, who died in the 2003 Japanese MotoGP while riding for Gresini. Kato lived in Misano during the racing season.