Having asked you to vote for the MotoGP and British Superbike personality you think deserved to be crowned as your top rider of 2008, it is the turn for Crash.net to countdown the World Superbike top ten, as voted for by you!

Of the three polls, this is arguably the most hotly contested, not least because we gave you a total of 25 riders to rate out of ten.

Having totted up their average scores from almost 25,000 votes, we will be revealing your World Superbike order over the next ten days, with the winner being announced on Saturday 20th December.

WSBK Rider of the Year - Fourth place:

Name: Max NeukirchnerNationality: GermanTeam: Alstare Suzuki Bike: Suzuki GSX-R1000Wins:2 Podiums: 7Championship points: 311Championship position: 5th

Max Neukirchner entered the 2008 World Superbike season as Suzuki's apprentice.

A few years of doing his utmost on privateer machinery had finally earned the young German a shot at a works ride with Alstare Suzuki.

Even so, despite acing his interview with a guest appearance at the season-ending Magny-Cours round in 2007, team-mates Fonsi Nieto and Yukio Kagayama were still the strict Suzuki team leaders at the start of the season, a fact Nieto, especially, consolidated with victory in the first round.

Neukirchner was already making his pitch, though, managing a pair of top five results in the first four races, although it was his performance at Valencia that assured him 'star of the future' status, even if the outcome proved disastrous.

Indeed, Neukirchner was just metres from a stunning first win in Spain when he was cruelly denied by an over-ambitious lunge at the final corner by Carlos Checa, who was desperate to win in front of his home crowd. Coming away with a broken collarbone, Neukirchner certainly had sympathy, but it wasn't the same a maiden victory.

Fortunately for him, he didn't have to wait too long to find out what that winning feeling was like, Neukirchner winning just three races later at Monza to finish what he started.

In fact, Neukirchner's mid-season was extraordinary, with a run of seven podiums in nine races catapulting him up to second place in the rider standings. Although he wasn't ever realistically close enough to mount a challenge on Troy Bayliss, it was still difficult to believe at this moment that Neukirchner had entered the season as effectively Suzuki's third-string rider.

Although his season didn't take a sudden turn for the worse, Neukirchner's comparative lack of experience and Suzuki's hesitance at maintaining the rapid rate of development enjoyed by rivals Yamaha and Honda meant he didn't end the season quite how he started it.

Neukirchner actually held down third place in the championship until the final four races, although a retirement at the final round would eventually cost him fourth in the standings too.

Even so, what Neukirchner lacked in experience in 2008, he made up for with raw talent. Since experience is nurtured and raw talent is nature, Neukirchner is destined for big things at Superbike level.

It is little surprise then that Suzuki re-signed Neukirchner as soon as they realised this mid-season...

4th - Max Neukirchner5th - Ryuichi Kiyonari6th - Ruben Xaus7th - Carlos Checa8th - Max Biaggi9th - Jakub Smrz10th - Michel Fabrizio

Tomorrow: We reach the top three in your WSBK Rider of the Year poll?

 

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