The motorcycling world held its collective breath as Regis Laconi lie in an induced coma in a South African hospital back in May, the Frenchman having been left fighting for his life after a horrific accident at Kyalami.
A stark reminder once again of the dangers motorsport can represent, Laconi is now almost fully recovered and plotting a return to competition in 2010, a feat almost as remarkable as any other in his long motorcycling career.
The galling thing about Laconi's withdrawal was the fact the accident had curtailed a season in which his flagging World Superbike reputation had been given a significant boost.
Having had his motivation sapped by three years of under-achievement at Kawasaki, Laconi teamed up with DFX Corse in 2009, who in turn were embarking on a new chapter by switching from Honda to Ducati machinery.
Having made up the numbers in recent years, Laconi and DFX weren't expected to be anything more than mid-field competitors when the season got underway, but the 11-time race winner would show exactly why he is a former World Superbike front-runner by just missing the podium at the opening round in Australia.
Far from being a fluke, Laconi placed the 1098RS on the front row at Valencia before completing another pair of fourth place finishes, results that even lifted him to a similar position in the overall standings.
His form was such that in ten races Laconi had already surpassed his points tally from 2008 and he was classified well inside the top ten overall.
Sadly, we never got to find out whether Laconi could sustain his form over the length of a season, but the impact of his performances in that short time are still rewarded here as you vote him as your seventh top World Superbike rider for 2009.
Whether or not his enforced absence has affected his confidence remains to be seen, but having Laconi back on the grid with DFX in 2010 will certainly be a welcome occurrence.
4th (Phillip Island, Valencia x2)
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:
- Jakub Smrz
- Troy Corser
- Shane Byrne