4th – Marco Melandri
Average poll score out of ten: 6.7
A diminutive Italian with a proven track-record at the highest-level of the sport riding a compact Italian Superbike… there were certainly parallels to be drawn by Marco Melandri's move to Aprilia Racing as he looked to emulate friendly foe Max Biaggi before him and earn himself a much-desired WSBK title to boot in 2014.
Indeed, this was the deal that World Superbikes had foreseen since 2011, so it was little surprise that Melandri began the 2014 season as a cautious favourite despite a less than spectacular build up during pre-season testing.
Podiums in the opening two rounds suggested Melandri had quickly found his mojo on the RSV4, only for him to slip into an unusually anonymous lull far removed from being one of the series' most spectacular and aggressive riders.
Struggling for rhythm on the bike, Melandri found himself cast adrift from the title battle after just five events and under pressure from the top brass in Aprilia, who were far from satisfied with their pricey signing. With 'rumours' looming over him, Melandri returned to his best in Malaysia with a comprehensive double win and from here he looked every inch the potential title contender as podiums and wins followed in all but the final round.
Unfortunately for him, Melandri's personal efforts were not enough alone to get back into contention, requiring also the added intervention of poor luck to strike his rivals
It meant that, despite topping the podium at Laguna Seca, Jerez and Magny-Cours, crashes at Portimao and in the USA would contribute to him ending the year 83 points behind his title-winning team-mate despite notching up more race wins.
Losing out on 'bronze' to Jonathan Rea in the final race summed up Melandri's disjointed season and he is unlikely to be enthused by the statistic that he is now the second most successful WSBK rider in terms of race wins yet to celebrate a title (behind Nori Haga).
For the time being we will be denied the chance to see if Melandri could possibly turn in that elusive championship as he (reluctantly) makes the return to MotoGP with Aprilia, but while few doubt he will be back soon, the jury is out on whether he will be better than ever.
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
5. Chaz Davies
6. Davide Giugliano
7. Loris Baz
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 ten.