Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011: 1. Carlos Checa

Nationality: Spaniard Team: Althea Ducati Bike: Ducati 1098R Wins: 15 Podiums: 21 Championship points: 505 Championship position: 1st

You only have to look at Carlos Checa's previous results in Crash.net's end-of-year votes to see how much his fortune has fluctuated since making his World Superbike debut in 2008, but two decades after first emerging on the international scene, 2011 was certainly his career zenith.

Though he has been well regarded on any machinery he has sampled during his lengthy career, his decision to join Althea Ducati has given him the platform to prove a fast, reliable and confident racer.

Indeed, though the original deal at the start of 2010 barely made headlines at the time, Checa did not stray too far from the news in 2011, the Spaniard dominating proceedings from start-to-finish to claim a long awaited first international title.

Setting the tone for the season with a crushing display at the Phillip Island season opener, Checa maintained his front-running form at every round with the exception of Monza, where the high-speed layout played to the Ducati's straight-line speed disadvantages.

Fortunately for Checa, the consequent strengths of the 1098R made the bike a formidable contender everywhere else. So much so that Checa missed the podium on just five occasions, at Monza, at Motorland Aragon when he suffered a rare crash, in the rain at the Nurburgring and the season concluding Portimao event.

More often than not, Checa was winning races, enough to ensure that he would end the 2011 season with the highest number of wins over a season since Doug Polen in 1991.

Long-standing arguments that the twin-cylinder Ducati commanded an advantage over the competition lingered in 2011, something both Checa and Althea persistently refuted. Still, it does not take away from Checa's achievement, the man coming of age in what may be the twilight of his career.

Looking ahead to 2012, the Checa-Ducati combination remains a formidable one, though it remains to be seen how he will contend with the additional weight heaped on by WSBK organisers in an effort to quieten rivals unconvinced that the title win was down to man, rather than machine.

Ducati are plotting a full-scale return to WSBK competition in 2013 with the 1199 Panigale, though it could do a lot worse than entrusting its development work to Checa and Althea...

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010: 3rd Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009: 11th Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008: 7th

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:

2 - Eugene Laverty 3 - Marco Melandri 4 - Jonathan Rea 5 - Tom Sykes 6 - Sylvain Guintoli 7 - Leon Haslam 8 - Ayrton Badovini 9 - Max Biaggi 10 - Noriyuki Haga