MotoGP has lost a yardstick for the sport with the retirement of Casey Stoner, according to new factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso.
The Italian said the Australian dual world champion was one of the greatest innovators of the elite series.
Stoner retired last year after becoming disenchanted with the sport and is set to race V8 Supercars this year.
Dovizioso, who will try to do something this year only Stoner could manage – win a world title on a Ducati, described his former rival as a racer everyone tried to emulate.
Seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi might have more silverware, but it was Stoner who was the standout rider of his era, Dovizioso said.
“A lot is going to change,” Dovizioso said.
“Since I am a fan of bikes, to see Casey ride was a show and I am going to miss what he could do and how he did it on the bike with his style.
“It is going to be easier, of course, because a competitor like him is always difficult to beat, but I think Casey changed a lot in MotoGP.
“For example, the approach to testing and the lines he took on the track. All riders try to study and improve and Casey was one of the riders that we took as a reference.”
He placed Stoner above Rossi in terms of talent.
“If you look at the past, nobody was able to go strong and fast from the first or second lap.
“I recall when Valentino was dominating that in the post-race tests, he could – within four laps – do the same lap as the record in the race.
“Casey could do this on the first lap.
“But we have all become aware that this can be done and we can all try and do it. Not having a strong and talented reference, though, is something we are all going to miss.”