Having asked you to vote for the MotoGP and British Superbike personality you think deserved to be crowned as your top rider of 2008, it is the turn for Crash.net
to countdown the World Superbike top ten, as voted for by you!
Of the three polls, this is arguably the most hotly contested, not least because we gave you a total of 25 riders to rate out of ten.
Having totted up their average scores from almost 25,000 votes, we will be revealing your World Superbike order over the next ten days, with the winner being announced on Friday 19th December.
WSBK Rider of the Year – Fifth place:
Ten Kate Honda
After four seasons, two of them title winning, racing in the British Superbike Championship, Ryuichi Kiyonari had finally done enough to convince Honda he was ready for the world stage again following his false start in MotoGP several years earlier.
Although a favoured son of HRC, Kiyonari still had plenty to prove in World Superbikes this year, the Japanese rider joining the championship winning team with little or no knowledge of the circuits that awaited him. He was required to be a frontrunner, yet he was almost starting from scratch.
Inevitably, this arguably proved to be Kiyonari's biggest stumbling block in 2008, his struggle to get the bike dialled in around unknown circuits raising some doubts about whether he was quite ready to fly the flag for Ten Kate.
Then came Brands Hatch and Donington Park…
Up to the back-to-back British rounds, Kiyonari had shown flashes of potential, particularly his third place finish at Monza in a race that he very nearly won. However, anonymous showings elsewhere meant there was minimal attention – or pressure – on him to do well at the two circuits he knows more intimately than probably anyone else in the field.
The benefit of experience for Kiyonari was immediately evident the moment he ventured onto the Kent circuit as he posted top three practice times. Come the races he was just as spectacular, Kiyonari battling with – and beating – Troy Bayliss to claim a maiden WSBK win before going on to add a second victory just hours later.
Suddenly Kiyonari's season had been turned on its head and it got even better at Donington Park when he added a third win to his tally. It could have been four had he not crashed out of the lead in terrible weather conditions in the first Donington Park race.
Those performances seemed to spur Kiyonari on, but while the end of his season was blighted by a broken collarbone sustained in testing, his three wins – one more than Carlos Checa – had already done enough to earn him another season with the team.
Indeed, Brands Hatch and Donington Park highlighted Kiyonari's ability to prove a world leader with the benefit of experience. Armed with a year of racing under his belt now, Kiyonari is now better placed to repeat that kind of form elsewhere.
It is little surprise then that he enters 2009 as an outside favourite for a title challenge in only his second season…
5th – Ryuichi Kiyonari
6th – Ruben Xaus
7th – Carlos Checa
8th – Max Biaggi
9th – Jakub Smrz
10th – Michel Fabrizio
Tomorrow: We reach number four in your WSBK Rider of the Year poll?