Top 10 WSBK Riders of the Year:
Following a forgettable 2010 season on the Ducati Xerox, Noriyuki Haga dodged rumours of retirement by continuing in 2011 with new machinery, a new team and new expectations.
A perennial fan favourite, though PATA Racing – an amalgamation of BRC Racing and DFX Corse – was very privateer on paper, the chance to run the 2010 title-winning Aprilia RSV-4 gave Haga the chance to show his very best in lower pressure surroundings.
Even so, Haga's transition to the compact bike wasn't exactly a seamless one, his form during the opening half of the year fluctuating notably, particularly in qualifying. A third place at Misano and a fourth at Monza showed flashes of excellence, but they were negated by the odd failure to finish inside the points elsewhere.
Eventually, Haga became better acquainted with the machine, bursting into form during the latter stages of the season when he finished on the podium at the Nurburgring, before following it up with two second place finishes at Imola. Haga should have been celebrating a race win too had he not fallen from a sizeable lead at the rain-lashed Nurburgring race.
Indeed, though he was more mid-field than front runner in 2011, such results served as a reminder to what Haga is capable of at WSBK level and showed he is not yet done with Superbike racing as yet.
Even so, it remains to be seen where Haga will land in 2012, the Japanese rider keeping a very low profile as we head into the off-season. With no word on whether PATA will continue, at the very worst, it would be a shame to see one of World Superbikes' most popular personalities forced into hiatus without so much as a proper goodbye...
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010: