Milan: MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi`s title defence has been dealt a severe blow when he fractured his right shin bone in a crash during practice for the Italian Grand Prix and could be out for at least two months.
The 31-year-old Yamaha rider was third fastest with 15 minutes remaining in Saturday`s final practice session when he was thrown from his bike and suffered a nasty landing.
He had trouble getting up and was eventually carried away on a stretcher to be checked over by medical staff, who diagnosed the injury and the MotoGP website (www.motogp.com) confirmed the break.
Doctors at Mugello told reporters the Italian was being flown to hospital and would be operated on immediately given the break was complicated and had almost broken through the skin, adding that a recovery time of at least two months was expected.
"I`m calm, they will do the best they can," Rossi, sporting a new mohican haircut, was quoted as saying by Italian media.
The next grand prix after Sunday`s race is the British MotoGP at Silverstone on June 20 and Rossi is also likely to miss the Dutch, Catalan, German and U.S. races, practically destroying his hopes of retaining his crown.
The nine-times motorcycling world champion, mulling a future move into rallying or Formula One, is second in this season`s standings after three races with Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo leading the way.
The Spaniard also topped the second free practice session ahead of qualifying with Rossi ending up fourth quickest despite his crash.
Rossi was fastest in Friday`s first practice for his beloved home race but had complained he was still suffering shoulder problems which had hampered him in the early rounds of the season.