Editor's Note: This continues a series counting down the top 15 stories in MotoGP in 2012, as determined by the Soup staff.
The smoke surrounding Casey Stoner's retirement started wafting in early May, at Estoril.
Spanish media had reported reigning World Champion Stoner intended to quit the sport after the 2012 season, at age 27. Stoner categorically denied the reports, saying he would continue racing into the near future because it was still fun. British reports seized on the Spanish reports saying it was all fiction, with the 24 news cycle as an accelerant.
Given Stoner's reputation as a straight shooter, and those who claim to know him saying it wasn't true, the hubbub surrounding his possible retirement dissipated.
There was no time for smoke signals at the following round, two weeks later at Le Mans. Stoner set the motorcycle racing world ablaze with the Towering Inferno announcement that he was quitting Grand Prix motorcycle racing after the 2012 season - at the tender age of 27.
Stoner revealed that his lust for MotoGP had cooled over the past two years, and he decided after long thought and conversations with his wife, Adriana, to stop.
Calling this revelation a stunner was a massive understatement. Stoner made the announcement at the Dorna pre-race press conference, and fellow participating riders Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Cal Crutchlow and Randy de Puniet sat in wide-eyed silence as Stoner recited a grocery list of reasons for walking away. Illustrating why Stoner felt so unappreciated in MotoGP was clear only a few hours after he made his announcement. Stoner was the fastest man in Grand Prix and the reigning world champion, who had just made a shock retirement announcement. What did the official MotoGP web site report in headline text? "Rossi To Race Four More Years".
Meanwhile, mobile phones and laptops ignited as journalists beamed the bombshell instantly to every corner of the globe.
But a quick step back from the emotion of the announcement gives time to understand that maybe this wasn't such a shocking decision by Stoner. He was a total throwback, a guy who cared about his mechanics and engineers and riding the living crap out of a prototype motorcycle, and little else, at the racetrack.
PR never was his thing. Nor were team politics or glad-handing sponsors and fans. He detested the dulling of the sharp edge of Grand Prix racing through the addition of Claiming Rules Teams machinery. About the only common off-track practice in the MotoGP paddock that Stoner practiced gladly were rapier-like mind games.
Stoner's zingers toward rivals were like burdocks stuck on wool socks during a summer hike - annoying as hell and damn hard to shed. Just ask Valentino Rossi after Stoner's famous claims that Rossi's ambition outweighed his talent when Rossi submarined Stoner out of the Jerez race in 2011.
There's no question Stoner's pure skill will be missed in MotoGP. Few could wring every last drop of performance out of a bike like the Australian, as he was the only rider to tame the Ducati Desmosedici, a feat that even Rossi couldn't achieve, much to Stoner's barb-filled delight.
The sight of Stoner annihilating the field at Phillip Island for six consecutive years also won't be repeated any time soon.
But MotoGP may miss Stoner's insouciant, yet biting honesty more than anything else. He was a complex man who let few outside of his inner circle under the velvet ropes of his trust. But he also gave honest, unvarnished answers and opinions to questions, a dying art in today's politically correct, glossy world of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Ironically, one of the few times Stoner told a pure, public lie in the MotoGP paddock came when he denied reports of his retirement in early May at Estoril. Of course, he set the record straight and told the truth two weeks later at Le Mans in typical Stoner fashion.
There were no public tears. No second thoughts to draw bigger paycheck. No marketing-driven retirement tours to sell more trash and trinkets to fans.