With seven manufacturers and 15 factory-backed riders on the grid in 2009, the sizeable privateer contingent certainly had its work cut out to make an impression on proceedings this season.

Nonetheless, Jakub Smrz and Guandalini Racing were among the handful of independent entries able to take the fight to their bigger budget rivals and grab a fair share of their own headlines.

Luring the experienced Pierfrancesco Chili to the team as he came on board as manager, Guandalini retained the services of Smrz, who had shown flashes of brilliance on the unfancied Ducati in 2008.

His third year in World Superbikes, Smrz came out of the box fighting in Australia, causing an immediate stir by dipping beneath the radar to place the 1098RS on the front row before going on to complete a solid pair of top ten finishes.

As was often the case in 2008, Smrz's was a star performer on Saturday afternoons, most notably at Misano when he, much to everyone's surprise, became the first rider other than Ben Spies to take a World Superbike pole position in 2009.

Although criticised for being unable to display a similar level of pace over a longer distance, Smrz did make a substantial step forward in this area this season, culminating in a first-ever podium at Assen. His pole position helped him to two fourth place finishes at Misano too, establishing Smrz as a serious podium contender.

The occasional dip in form - he struggled at Kyalami and the Nurburgring - didn't aid his cause, but Smrz was a regular top ten finisher and he was duly rewarded with tenth in the overall standings, classified as the third best privateer and ahead of seven factory rivals.

Smrz has already confirmed he will attempt a third season with Guandalini in 2010, but with BRC Racing tipped to get on board and a switch to Aprilia machinery mooted, the Czech rider looks set to capitalise on some serious backing for the first time.

Statistics:

Team: Guandalini Racing Bike: Ducati 1098RS

Championship position: 10th Points: 169

Race starts: 26 Pole positions: 1 Victories: 0 Podiums: 1 Best results: 3rd (Assen) Points finishes: 22

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008: 9th

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:

9 - Troy Corser 10 - Shane Byrne