Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:2.
When compiling this vote for the 2011 World Superbike Rider of the Year, one of the more interesting developments was to see whom would emerge top between Yamaha riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty.
Both came into 2011 as Superbike rookies, albeit from different directions, with Melandri arriving after several years in MotoGP, while Laverty was stepping up from the World Supersport Championship.
As we know, Melandri would go on to finish second in the standings, with Laverty in fourth, yet it is the Irishman that emerges ahead of his team-mate in your vote here – even if it was incredibly close throughout…
Laverty was a welcome revelation in 2011, his transition to Superbike racing proving incredibly seamless as he challenged at the front from the outset. His remarkable double victory at Monza was as accomplished as it was unexpected, a popular career peak after many years of hard graft to get to this point.
Though he often found himself bridging the gap between the 'big three' of Checa, Biaggi and Melandri, Laverty was remarkably consistent, particularly in qualifying as he notched up seven front row starts in 13 races. Indeed, although Laverty was only on the podium on six occasions in 2011, he still managed 18 top five finishes!
Already fast and reliable, many still feel there is much more to come from Laverty, more so than Checa, Melandri and Biaggi just a few metres up the road – and occasionally behind - most Sunday afternoons.
Looking ahead to 2012, though he will have a new bike to understand in 2012 following his decision to join Aprilia in the wake of Yamaha's withdrawal, Laverty is already being touted as a potential title contender. On the evidence of his maiden season, his rivals – and new team-mate Biaggi – should be worried…Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010:
N/ATop 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:
N/ATop 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008:
N/ATop 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:3.
Marco Melandri 4.
Jonathan Rea 5.
Tom Sykes 6.
Sylvain Guintoli 7.
Leon Haslam 8.
Ayrton Badovini 9. Max Biaggi 10.