Marco Bezzecchi has suffered an injury that could effectively end his 2023 MotoGP world championship bid while training at Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Ranch.
As first reported by Italian website GPOne and later confirmed by The Race's sources, Bezzecchi crashed while training at Rossi’s flat track circuit on Saturday afternoon, during a session that's a weekly tradition for all of the VR46 Academy riders when not at a race.
He had surgery on Sunday, with the VR46 team saying his "return on track will be evaluated in the next 48 hours".
Bezzecchi has won three races so far this season and currently sits third in the championship behind friend Pecco Bagnaia and fellow Ducati rider Jorge Martin.
Though he's seen his two rivals stretch away somewhat across the past two rounds in India and Japan (despite Bezzecchi dominating the actual grand prix at Buddh), Bezzecchi still had an outside title chance heading into the year's remaining six rounds.
He currently sits 54 points behind Bagnaia, with Martin only three down on the title leader - but, with sprint races added to every round of the 2023 season, there are still a significant 222 points available this year.
Those races will come thick and fast now, however, with the championship heading to Indonesia next weekend for the first part of a triple-header featuring Australia and Thailand.
Then there’s only a single weekend off before a long-haul finish to the year in three more back-to-back-to-back races in Malaysia, Qatar and at Spain’s Valencia circuit.
That means that any absence at all for Bezzecchi is likely to have a massive impact on his title bid.
It comes as his VR46 team-mate Luca Marini is also in a fight to recover in time to make the next race at the Mandalika circuit next weekend.
Marini fractured his own collarbone in his first corner crash at the Indian GP, in which he almost took Bezzecchi down as well.
He immediately travelled home to undergo surgery, going under the knife less than 24 hours after hitting the gravel at Buddh in order to give him the best possible chance to make it back in action in time for Mandalika.