Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011: 3. Marco Melandri

Nationality: Italian Team: Yamaha Bike: Yamaha YZF-R1 Wins: 4 Podiums: 15 Championship points: 395 Championship position: 2nd

The latest rider to convert from MotoGP to World Superbikes, Marco Melandri is arguably the most celebrated newcomer to the join the production-based series since Max Biaggi's debut back in 2007.

Looking to rediscover his passion for racing having become increasingly disillusioned in MotoGP, Melandri may have maintained a low profile over the winter as he recovered from shoulder surgery, but once the season started, he looked every inch the seasoned professional.

Making an impression with his podium in the opening event at Phillip Island, Melandri's win at the following Donington Park round transformed his status from exciting rookie into potential title contender.

As it happens, Melandri couldn't get back on top of the podium until mid-season at Motorland Aragon and by this stage Carlos Checa was too far in the distance to consider keeping those title dreams alive.

Further wins followed at Brno and the season-ending Portimao event, aiding Melandri's run to second position in the overall standings and establishing him as a potentially big rival to Checa for 2012. Of course, much will depend on how he gets on with the BMW following Yamaha's withdrawal, but Melandri reminded everyone exacly why he was once a contender at MotoGP level and there is every indication he is good enough to follow in the footsteps of Biaggi and Checa before him...

Beyond the race track, Melandri's arrival was a big boost to the World Superbike Championship, the Italian proving a popular addition amongst fans, while his occasional t?te-?-t?tes with Biaggi - both on and off the track - gave the series some edge in a year that was otherwise all about Checa.

Though his switch to the unproven BMW will certainly prompt hesitation as to whether he can maintain his momentum heading into 2012, the combination will still prove one of the year's most intriguing developments.

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

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:

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