Max Neukirchner's hopes of returning to the World Superbike Championship have been dealt a blow after a crash during testing at Imola left him with a broken vertebra.
The German was making his first appearance on the Suzuki Alstare Brux for the first time since breaking his leg in an accident at Monza more than two months ago, with the intention to go racing again at next week's Brno round.
However, Neukirchner crashed during the morning test session at Tamburello and required a visit to hospital. Although it was initially reported that he had suffered back contortions, an X-ray scan revealed a D12 dorsal vertebra fracture in his lower back, as well as three minor cracks in the right L1, L2 and L3 lumbar vertebrae.
Neukirchner will now return to his native Germany where he must remain at total rest in a plaster cast for 30 days.
The injury is a further blow to Neukirchner, who was originally feared to be out for the remainder of the season due to the seriousness of his leg break, caused when he was caught up in a first turn accident at Monza. However, despite a quicker than expected recovery from that ailment, this latest problem could well see him out of action to the end of the year.