2. Max Biaggi
Nationality: Italian Team: Aprilia Racing Bike: Aprilia RSV4 Wins: 5 Podiums: 11 Championship points: 358 Championship position: 1st

He didn't win the most races in 2012. He started from pole position just once. He didn't even manage as many podiums as he did during an injury-interrupted 2011 season. And yet, despite falling short in nearly every statistical chart this year, Max Biaggi still emerged top of the most important one...

Indeed, it's remarkable to think that Biaggi heads into retirement with a second WSBK title despite accumulating a fairly meagre sum of five wins and 11 podiums, a tally that puts him behind Marco Melandri in the former category and Tom Sykes in the latter.

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However, in a year that saw nine different race winners and 15 riders reach the podium, Biaggi's unending ability to extract the maximum from the Aprilia RSv4 - even on days when he wasn't looking terribly competitive - made the difference... 0.5 points worth of difference, to be exact.

One statistic that did work in Biaggi's favour, however, was his win in the opening race of the season (a good omen...), though he wouldn't see the podium again until round five at Donington Park. In that time, Carlos Checa had briefly nosed ahead before his season spiralled away, but from Assen onwards, Biaggi remained at the head of the standings.

With the masses seeing their challenges blunted by the intense competition lessening the impact of their winnings, a mid-season flurry of wins at Misano (a double) and Aragon had the effect of launching Biaggi into a fairly comfortable position out front.

However, from that point on, Biaggi's concentration appeared to waver somewhat, a couple of unhappy weekends at Brno and Silverstone (where he suffered his first DNF of the year) being followed by a spectacular mistake in Moscow when he wiped out BMW's Leon Haslam.

Coupled to Marco Melandri's devastating run of third-quarter form, Biaggi suddenly found himself demoted to second in the standings and seemingly slipping away from the title fight. A win at the Nurburgring proved the ideal response, though a fall in race two showed the pressure was still on.

With Melandri ruining his own chances with a flurry of errors, Biaggi looked to be back on course for the title win, even when Tom Sykes seemed to be engineering a late charge with his own success at Portimao.

In fact, Biaggi needn't have even stressed too much about the maths such was his advantage heading into the Magny-Cours finale, but the moment he hit the deck in the first race, the calculators were flung out. Suddenly, the pressure was very much on again and even though Biaggi needed a fairly meagre result in race two, his run to sixth place wasn't seen as the most convincing way to secure the WSBK crown...

Of course, Biaggi would reel off the title by the very smallest of margins, leaving Sykes fans to ponder what could have been and Biaggi fans to breathe a collective sigh of relief!

Some will argue that Biaggi was fortunate to come out on top (none of Sykes's very costly DNFs were self-inflicted), but for every moment when the Italian received some luck - such as Eugene Laverty hanging back on team orders in Russia -, there is one where the 'Emperor' redeemed himself, such as his resolve to jump back on his damaged bike in Germany to finish 13th when many would have forgiven him for sulking in the gravel trap and his stunning fight back to second right at the start of the season in Australia. That extra ounce of determination would be critical to his eventual success.

A man that has polarised opinions over the years, the loss of Biaggi to a world of fatherhood remains a blow for the series.

Then again, who can blame Biaggi for wanting to go out on the ultimate high, being remembered as the man that fought for every last little point... and how fitting would that prove in 2012?

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011: 9th Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010: 2nd Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009: 3rd Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008: 8th

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2012:
3. Marco Melandri 4. Chaz Davies 5. Sylvain Guintoli 6. Jonathan Rea 7. Eugene Laverty 8. Carlos Checa 9. Loris Baz 10. Leon Camier
Do you agree the poll results? If not, why not? Leave your comments below...