MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo's US Grand Prix weekend has been thrown into jeopardy by a huge highside at the very end of Saturday morning practice at Laguna Seca.
The Factory Yamaha star, fastest on Friday and a close third this morning, had just done a practice start when he was tossed into the air at the exit of turn five, before slamming down hard on the asphalt and being clipped by his bike as he slid into the gravel.
Clearly in pain, Lorenzo nevertheless refused a stretcher and eventually limped away with the help of marshals, before heading for the medical centre.
Lorenzo has closed to within 15 points of world championship leader Casey Stoner, who led a trio of riders below the 1min 22sec mark during the Saturday morning session.
Despite the cool conditions, the ever-cleaner Californian track surrendered greater grip than yesterday, allowing Stoner to break into the 1min 21sec after just ten minutes.
Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa soon joined him, although further improvements by Stoner kept the title leader in charge right to the chequered flag.
But only just. Pedrosa, winner last Sunday in Germany, closed to 0.017sec of his team-mate, with Lorenzo only 0.049sec from the top.
A near 0.4sec gap then separated Lorenzo from the Gresini-run factory Honda Marco Simoncelli. Ben Spies moved up the order to fifth to hold top American honours, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Ducati's Nicky Hayden.
Hayden - who made his debut on the new GP11.1 during Friday practice - is reported to be switching back to the 'normal' GP11 for the rest of this weekend. Hayden was 0.6sec from the top and made clear gains over his Friday time.