Last month, Crash.net asked you to vote for the MotoGP rider that had impressed you most so far this season, from a shortlist of nine provided.

Voting closed earlier this week, a few days after round eight (of 17) at Laguna Seca, and the results can now be revealed (full list at end of story).

Separated by just 0.02% at the top of the list, and head and shoulders above the rest, were title contenders Casey Stoner (26.29%) and Jorge Lorenzo (26.27%).

Of the eight races so far, Stoner has finished no lower than fifth - with five podiums, two wins and a front row start at all but one round. Despite struggling with a mystery energy-sapping illness at the last three events, the 2007 world champion is currently third in the championship, seven points behind Lorenzo and 16 from Valentino Rossi.

Significantly, Stoner has once again been the only rider capable of battling for victory on a Ducati, with the next best Desmosedici rider being team-mate and fellow world champion Nicky Hayden. Hayden is just twelfth in the championship with 38 points compared with 135 for Stoner.

While Stoner's has impressed by being the lone Ducati, Lorenzo has shone for the exact opposite reason. Valentino Rossi has rarely been beaten by a rider on the same bike, but Fiat Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo has done so three times already this season. Lorenzo has also matched the Italian with seven podiums from eight starts and proved quicker in qualifying with four poles to Rossi's two.

Few could fail to be impressed by the way Lorenzo rode through the pain in last Sunday's US GP, when he came close to beating a fully fit Rossi, only to stumble as he made an impulsive pass for second. Had Lorenzo overtaken Rossi cleanly, he believes he might also have beaten Dani Pedrosa and claimed his third race win of the year.

After so much success, greatness is expected from reigning six time MotoGP world champion Rossi - who became only the second rider in history to reach 100 grand prix wins at round seven in Holland - perhaps explaining why the Italian legend was ranked only third in the poll (with 15.19% of the vote) despite leading the world championship. Rossi is also the only rider so far this year to win three races.

Just 2.82% behind Rossi was Honda's Dani Pedrosa, who probably impressed you most by his guts in riding through pain of pre-season injuries to stay firmly in the championship fight until yet another injury, this time to his hip, was inflicted at round five (Mugello).

Pedrosa is the only Honda rider to finish on the podium so far this year (four times) and his victory in last Sunday's US GP marked his and Honda's first win in 19 races, but his injuries have dropped him 59 points behind Rossi in the championship.

Top satellite rider Colin Edwards of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 is fifth in the world championship and fifth in your vote (7.58%), while Pedrosa's new team-mate Andrea Dovizioso - like Edwards, still chasing a first podium of the season - was a fraction behind on 6.30%.

Marco Melandri's early giant-killing rides on the Hayate Kawasaki, including a shock second in the wet/dry Le Mans race, were rewarded with just 2.74% of the vote, while Suzuki's Loris Capirossi - one point in front of Melandri for seventh in the world championship - got just 1.98%.

Rounding out the nine-rider shortlist was top rookie Mika Kallio, who is still to beat his two eighth places in the opening rounds, but was on target for sixth at Assen before a lap crash left him with a nasty finger injury, which ruled him out of Laguna Seca.

An earlier poll, asking you to predict who would be leading the championship by the start of the summer break (now just two races away) had ended with Stoner just a few votes ahead of Rossi (each on 44%), while Pedrosa got 7% and Lorenzo just 5%, confirming that the #99 has exceeded most expectations so far.

Poll results: Who impressed you most in 2009 so far?

1. Stoner: 26.29%
2. Lorenzo: 26.27%
3. Rossi: 15.19%
4. Pedrosa: 12.37%
5. Edwards: 7.58%
6. Dovizioso: 6.30%
7. Melandri: 2.74%
8. Capirossi: 1.98%
9. Kallio: 1.28%

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