3rd – Tom Sykes
Average poll score out of ten: 7.1
Kawasaki Racing Team
In many ways, Tom Sykes's 2014 WSBK season was more convincing than his title-winning campaign a year earlier. Eight wins, 16 podiums and a title challenge right to the final race, the statistics are certainly compelling… they just don't tell the entire story.
Bidding to become the first rider since Carl Fogarty to successfully defend his WSBK crown, a pre-season crash and injury didn't represent the most natural of beginnings, but a double win next time out in Aragon reasserted Sykes's place at the top of the standings – a position he would maintain until the very final round.
As ever, when Sykes found the Kawasaki's sweet spot, he was unstoppable, the doubles at Aragon, Donington Park and Misano as dominant as you'll ever see in WSBK. Unfortunately, when the bike was less tuned to its surroundings - particularly in the wet - Sykes opted for caution to protect his, admittedly, comfortable advantage.
However, though Sykes was an eight-time winner in 2014, just one win from the final four rounds would ultimately make the difference as he was hunted down and overhauled by Sylvain Guintoli.
Though far from a critique, in the face of Guintoli's flawless consistency, Sykes's single-lap form, bursts of race-winning pace and his own impressive consistency couldn't quite give him the edge.
Of course, Sykes was vocal in blaming team-mate Loris Baz for losing out on the 2014 title and a look at his and Guintoli's results side-by-side do indeed highlight the sole DNF in Sepang as the only obvious blot on a year that otherwise saw him finish two-thirds of the season's races on the podium, half of those on top of it.
However, there was a notable lack of momentum towards the end of the season and his 85 points from the final three events – compared to Guintoli's 135 – would arguably make the bigger difference when it truly mattered.
The somewhat galling way to be pipped to a world title aside, Sykes still has much to take from his 2014 campaign. Indeed, eight more wins – more than any other rider in 2014 - place him eighth on the all-time list, while he is now the most successful rider currently active in World Superbikes.
Furthermore, the lessons learned from 2014 stand to make him an even better rider in 2015… not to mention, the impetus of having a rider as Jonathan Rea coming in as your team-mate!
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
4. Marco Melandri
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.