Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2013: 5. Marco Melandri
Nationality: Italian Team: BMW GoldBet Motorrad Bike: BMW S1000RR Wins: 3 Podiums: 12 Championship points: 359 Championship position: 4th

With former rival and foe Max Biaggi opting to bow out on a high, Marco Melandri came into the 2013 World Superbike Championship as one of the men deemed most likely to succeed his countryman.

Indeed, save for the botched conclusion to his title challenge in 2012, Melandri's collection of race wins on the still relatively unfamiliar BMW S1000RR suggested a second season would be all he needed to give the German manufacturer the first world title in what would turn out to be its swansong.

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However, behind-the-scenes things were not quite all as they seemed. No matter how BMW attempted to spin the announcement that it was amending its factory challenge from an in-house operation to an out-sourced challenge overseen by Feel Racing (BMW Italia GoldBet) in 2013, the 'positive' transition would eventually come to be accepted as the first move towards its more substantial withdrawal.

Furthermore, while Feel Racing were certainly just as capable of wringing race-winning pace out of the S1000RR, amendments to the bike over the winter would leave Melandri unsettled enough to keep highlights limited to just a couple of podiums from the opening events.

Two wins and two second places from five races between Monza, Donington and Portimao raised hopes of a sustained title challenge, but fortunes would fluctuate noticeably over the ensuing events. As we would discover after the season, Melandri revealed he had spent much of the mid-season battling against glandular fever, a debilitating illness that - despite a third win of the year at a sodden Moscow Raceway - would nudge him onto a back foot that he ultimately wouldn't recover from.

It was also during this period that BMW had confirmed it was withdrawing its factory support at the end of the season, leaving Melandri chasing both wins and a new ride for 2014, as well as recuperate.

To his credit, a flurry of podiums during the final rounds suggests he hadn't been completely demotivated by BMW's unexpected announcement (a move reminiscent to two years earlier when Yamaha's exit left Melandri in the lurch), while he may have fancied his chances at the Nurburgring but for two ill-timed red flag stops, or the determined fight back by a spurned Eugene Laverty on the final corner at Jerez.

In the end, the Italian wouldn't return to the top of the podium and was out of the championship battle with one round to spare. Nonetheless, he heads into the off-season with more to look forward to than most having secured the factory Aprilia move he had long craved - will it be fourth time lucky for the ex-MotoGP rider in 2014?

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2012: 3rd Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011: 3rd 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 2013:

6. Loris Baz 7. Jonathan Rea 8. Davide Giugliano 9. Toni Elias 10. Leon Camier

Do you agree the poll results? If not, why not? Leave your comments below...