Marco Melandri's hopes of winning the 2012 World Superbike Championship appear to be over after an accident on the opening lap of the first race left him reeling with both a back injury and a second consecutive double DNF.
Having ceded his brief stint in the lead of the championship when he failed to score any points at the Nurburgring earlier in the month, Melandri would fare just as poorly in Portimao when he slid off his BMW whilst attempting to retake a position from key rival Max Biaggi on the first lap.
Insisting he wasn't aware the Aprilia rider was there, Melandri came down fairly lightly, albeit in the middle of the track, where he would be collected by the unsighted ParkinGO MTC Aprilia of Chaz Davies.
Though the impact, which also brought Davies down, occurred at a relatively low speed, Melandri would complain of pains, prompting a visit to the local hospital for further checks. There he was diagnosed with contortions on his back.
However, while Melandri was otherwise not seriously hurt, the damage to his title hopes could prove terminal, the Italian having now slipped 38.5 points adrift of Biaggi with only two races remaining.
“Once more it was a very bad day for me. When Max Biaggi passed me I kept my inside line and I did not really see him. I just heard the sound of somebody touching the front of my bike and I went down and I felt something hit my back.
“I was very worried about my back, kidney or liver because it hurt very badly. Fortunately the medical exams show that everything is okay. Now it is a bit better because I took a lot of painkillers, but I still don't feel very well.”