Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011: 4. Jonathan Rea

Nationality: British Team: Castrol Honda Bike: Honda CBR1000RR Wins: 2 Podiums: 5 Championship points: 170 Championship position: 9th

If he had the opportunity, Jonathan Rea would likely ask you to ignore three-quarters of the 2011 World Superbike Championship season and simply focus on the last quarter as an indicator of what his year could have been.

Having been unable to live up to his title-challenging credentials in 2010, Rea came into the new season with renewed optimism aboard the admittedly ageing Honda CBR1000RR, this year decked out in an iconic Castrol livery.

However, injuries in the direct run up to the season opener had a detrimental effect on Rea's early form, and though he was on top of the podium by round three at his happy hunting ground of Assen, it was a peak of an otherwise frustrating start to the year. Indeed, though top five finishes are nothing to be disappointed with, it didn't exactly form the basis of a title challenge.

After a double DNF blow at Miller Motorsports Park, Rea's season was thrown into further turmoil by his high-speed accident at Misano, which left him with a broken wrist and a lengthy period on the sidelines.

Interestingly, though it was clear early on that Rea would not be a title challenger in 2011, his four-round absence ironically served as a reminder of his abilities, as replacements came and went without so much as troubling the points, lending further weight to the suggestion it takes a special kind of rider to get the best from the CBR1000RR.

Back for the final four rounds, Rea didn't so much as return, as burst back onto the scene, most notably at Imola when he romped to a wholly unexpected victory. It would have been a double too had he not been let down by his bike's mechanical problems in race two.

Much of this could be attributed to Honda's introduction of the 'fly-by-wire' system, which seemingly transformed the bike from mid-field contender to victory challenger overnight.

Pole positions followed at Magny-Cours and Portimao to reinforce Rea's return to the spotlight and helped in his decision to stay loyal to Honda for 2012 at a time when many were expecting him to look elsewhere.

You can understand his reasoning, particularly as Honda develops this already successful piece of technology, while the arrival of the updated CBR1000RR can only be a further boost.

Indeed, though 2010 and 2011 haven't exactly lived up to expectations, it is the measure of the man that Rea will still begin 2012 as one of the favourites regardless...

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010: 4th Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009: 4th Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008: N/A

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:

5. Tom Sykes 6. Sylvain Guintoli 7. Leon Haslam 8. Ayrton Badovini 9. Max Biaggi 10. Noriyuki Haga