30. Alexander Albon - Formula 2, 3rd

Albon’s 2018 season was a feel-good story and a perfect example of determination and self-belief. The British-born Thai began the year with doubts over his long-term future in F2, having only signed a race-by-race deal with DAMS.

But an impressive start to the season, including taking three straight pole positions and a victory at Baku, placed Albon as an early frontrunner in the championship fight and enabled him to seal a full-time contract for the rest of the year. Further wins followed at Silverstone, the Hungaroring and Sochi as Albon ended up finishing third in the standings, leading to a second chance with Red Bull and a well-deserved F1 seat with Toro Rosso for 2019.

29. Kyle Busch – NASCAR Monster Energy Cup, 4th

2018 was arguably Kyle Busch’s strongest season in NASCAR that didn’t end with a championship as he racked up eight wins – matching his career-high in a single year – and recorded new PBs for top-fives (22) and top-10s (28) within a single season.

Busch managed to capture his first Coca-Cola 600 victory and win the Regular Season championship, but ailed when it mattered – at the very final race at Homestead – as he finished fourth behind his three title rivals. It meant he ended the year with his worst standings finish since the new play-off system was introduced in 2015.

28. Thierry Neuville, World Rally Championship, 2nd

While Thierry Neuville could reflect on a season of ‘what ifs’ as he finished runner-up in the WRC championship for the fourth time in his career, the long-time leader produced his strongest and most consistent campaign to date by scoring points in all but one round in 2018.

Victory at Rally Sweden set out Neuville’s charge before back-to-back wins in Portugal and Sardinia wrestled him the WRC points lead from Sebastien Ogier who fell into a mid-season dip.

Despite continual pressure from Ogier plus a resurgence from Ott Tanak, Neuville led the standings all the way until the end of Rally Catalunya de Espana and in an all-or-nothing final round in Australia was forced to retire with damage on the third-to-last stage to miss out to Ogier again.

27. Michael van der Mark – World Superbikes, 3rd, Suzuka 8 Hours winner

A breakthrough year for Michael van der Mark in multiple senses by securing his maiden World Superbike race wins with a surprise dominant double victory at Donington Park which fuelled his charge up the pecking order in 2018.

Despite one fewer race this year compared to last year, with Qatar race two being cancelled, the Dutch rider still outscored his maiden Yamaha WorldSBK campaign by 110 points to underline the performance gains from both rider and machine this year. His third place in the final riders’ standings also beat his previous best of fourth place in his final year at Honda while both Yamaha and van der Mark will be eager to see the rate of improvement continue into 2019.

Away from World Superbikes, van der Mark also made history by becoming a four-time Suzuka 8 Hour winner by successfully defending Yamaha’s title alongside regular team-mate Alex Lowes and factory rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga (the latter missing the race with injury).

26. Will Power – IndyCar, 3rd; Indy 500 winner

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Will Power being one of the men to beat in IndyCar.

2018 saw Power finally win the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, taking one of the more comfortable wins seen in recent times to thrust himself to the top of the championship standings.

Retirements at Texas Motor Speedway and Road America hit Power’s title chances hard, meaning that even with a streak of four podiums in the final five races, he finished almost 100 points short of eventual champion Scott Dixon.

But that should not detract from the significance of his Indy 500 win. His cry of “show me respect, mother f**ker!” soon after winning the race came from a man who for so long has been underestimated. 2018 was the year his critics ran out of ammunition.

25. Kevin Harvick – NASCAR Monster Energy Cup, 3rd

Joey Logano may have bene the man to win the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup in 2018, but it was Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who were the two stand-out performers across the course of the entire season.

Harvick matched Busch’s total of eight wins through the year, also taking three on the bounce in the early part of the season (Texas to Richmond), and also scored 22 top-five finishes through the year.

Harvick entered the championship showdown with momentum after winning at Phoenix, only to finish third at Homestead, missing out on a second Cup title.

24. Naoki Yamamoto - Super GT and Super Formula, 1st

Yamamoto enjoyed a stellar 2018 in which he became the first driver in 14 years to be crowned champion in Japan’s two premier series (Super GT and Super Formula) in the same year.

The 30-year-old teamed up with 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button in Super GT, winning one race together and scoring four podiums en route to beating Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy to the title by just three points. Yamamoto also pipped Cassidy in Super Formula, recording a trio of victories across the season to finish one point clear of the New Zealander.

23. Johann Kristofferson – WRX, 1st

No driver enjoyed the kind of dominance or success in an FIA series of Johann Kristofferson, who took his second FIA World Rallycross crown in supreme fashion.

The stats speak for themselves: 12 races, 11 wins, and a 93-point margin of victory in the championship standings. Kristofferson’s only blip came at Mettet in Belgium when contact off the start nearly flipped his car – he still managed to finish fifth in the final heat – but he was otherwise unstoppable.

Kristofferson’s success also helped the PSRX Volkswagen team to the teams’ title, but the Swede will be trying a different discipline next year, having announced his plans to race in the WTCR series with Sebastien Loeb’s team.

Can he be successful there? Don’t bet against it: he also won the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship in 2018 too, taking his final win tally for 2018 to 14.

22. Daniel Ricciardo - Formula 1, 6th

Ricciardo endured a rollercoaster final season with Red Bull before making the switch to leading midfield outfit Renault for 2019. After the opening six races, Ricciardo sat level with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton on two wins each, having taken impressive victories in China and Monaco, before the second half of his campaign was littered by an unprecedented amount of reliability woes.

His charge through the pack in China, including a stunning late divebomb move on leader Valtteri Bottas, was a sensational display that underlined Ricciardo’s strengths as a driver. Three races later he would taste the winners’ champagne once more as he dominated proceedings with a masterful drive at Monaco. The Australian battled engine issues to hold off attacks from Vettel and seal a redemptive victory around the streets of Monte Carlo. Sixth place in the championship was not a fair reflection of his performances.

21. Jorge Lorenzo – MotoGP, 9th

While on paper Jorge Lorenzo’s 2018 MotoGP campaign looks uninspiring, technically his worst racing campaign since 2003 in his 125cc days, many of the Spaniard’s feats in 2018 were admirable as he secured his maiden Ducati MotoGP race wins and showed plenty of title-challenging potential albeit without consistency.

After a technical issue forced him out of the opener in Qatar, Lorenzo endured a fraught start to 2018 struggling to control his GP18’s obvious performance advantage. It eventually led to Lorenzo and Ducati confirming a split by the end of the season, but with the five-time world champion eager to prove a point, a breakthrough arrived in Mugello with a grippy fuel tank which he credited with leading to his maiden MotoGP victory with the Italian manufacturer.

Proving it was no fluke, Lorenzo grabbed pole position and another win at the very next round in Catalunya while remaining at the sharp end during the summer rounds which included a further podium in the Czech Republic plus a third win in Austria.

Despite three consecutive pole positions after Austria, a combination of bad luck, crashes and errors led to Lorenzo failing to score a point until the final race of the year – with Lorenzo ultimately ruled out by various injuries between the Aragon race and the Valencia finale.

FEATURE: Crash.net's Top 100 Drivers and Riders of 2018 - 60-41 (Part 3) 



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