7th – Loris Baz
Average poll score out of ten: 6.0
Kawasaki Racing Team
There was a time during the early stages of the 2014 season where many felt there wasn't enough controversy in World Superbikes… rivals got on just a little bit too well. Fast forward to November and Loris Baz found himself caught up in inter-team wrangles, bristling quotes and even a Twitter
spat with his team-mate Tom Sykes.
It's a far cry from the days when Baz was considered a relatively 'leftfield' choice for Kawasaki in replacing the sadly unfortunate Joan Lascorz midway through the 2012 season. Back then, Kawasaki took it upon themselves to hone Baz into a front runner and after a strong (albeit injury curtailed) 2013 season, all signs pointed towards 2014 being the year where the Frenchman had to be regularly considered a challenger to Sykes', the Reas and the Melandris.
Somewhat frustratingly, the controversy of his collision with Sykes in Sepang and the team orders debacle that snatched the attention in Qatar was always destined to overshadow his season in conclusion, but whether you side with Baz's personal morals or Sykes' accusation of selfishness, 2014 was still the year Baz made a substantial step forward.
Statistically speaking, Baz didn't win a single race in 2014 as expected – unlike 2012 and 2013 when it was much less expected -, but his nine podiums amounted to a greater return overall and by all accounts established him as a rider that could now consistently challenge at the front.
Two pole positions furthered his reputation and brought him closer into line with Sykes, though it is certainly worth pointing out that Baz – in races they both completed – out-performed his team-mate on just three occasions in 2014.
Even so, there was enough evidence in 2014 to suggest the season was the stepping stone to an unquestionable title challenge in 2015, but with his relationship at Kawasaki floundering and the calls of MotoGP growing, we will be robbed the chance of seeing how that unfolds (at least for the time being).
Controversial or not, it is a shame to lose Baz at a time when it really looked like all that growth and progress was on the cusp of reaping the highest rewards…
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2013:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2012:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:
Do you agree the poll results? If not, why not? Leave your comments below...
WSBK Rider of the Year poll results so far
8. Leon Camier
9. David Salom
10. Alex Lowes
About the vote:
Rather than repeat the Riders' World Championship standings, the WSBK Rider of the Year poll asks viewers to take into account factors such as machinery, performance relative to a team-mate, riding style, experience, injuries, progress and personality just as much as race results.
Over 40,000 votes were cast for the 2014 Crash.net
WSBK Rider of the Year poll, where viewers awarded each of the top twenty from this year's WSBK standings with a mark out of