KTM’s MotoGP team boss Mike Leitner has cast doubts over Pol Espargaro’s participation at the Austrian factory’s home grand prix at Spielberg this weekend, and says he is “99 percent” sure there will be no replacement rider for the event.

Sunday in the Czech Republic proved to be a nightmare day for the factory’s MotoGP ensemble as Espargaro’s painful fall at turn three in morning warm-up fractured his left collarbone and put him out of the race.

Several hours later, Bradley Smith’s afternoon came to a premature conclusion when he was tagged by Stefan Bradl at the same corner, an incident which led Leitner to label the day “a disaster … I think it was the worst day since we started this project.”

Detailing the reasons for Espargaro’s heavy fall at turn three, Leitner said, “There was no bike issue at all. He was on a quite slow lap and I think he tried to push for one more fast lap in the morning.

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“On braking for turn three he lost a little the rear, it lifted [off the ground], it came back and he tried to avoid the crash. Maybe the first moment he thought he would go straight but in the end he was so fast so he crashed before the gravel and that’s it.

“To be fair it was quite dramatic when they brought him back. He had such a pain in the shoulder area, we didn’t know at all what was going on. Now he’s in the hospital, they checked him and it’s not as serious. Of course we thought he might have had a problem in the spinal [area].

“But luckily there was nothing of that. They’ve been very careful with him with the transport and everything. He had a lot of pain but now he’s in the hospital and Borja informed us that we are not allowed to go in.

“He has a fracture on the collarbone but don’t ask me how, because we don’t have any comments from the doctors, no one is 100 percent sure. Most probably he will go to Spain and we will see what really happened.”

The Austrian also indicated it was very unlikely that Espargaro would be in Austria, and said the lack of possible replacement options with relevant MotoGP experience means Smith could well be KTM’s sole representative in this weekend's eleventh round of the season.

“To be fair, and also out of respect we didn’t even think [about replacement riders],” said Leitner. “This is normal that if a rider misses a race you don’t start immediately thinking about replacements. 99% nobody will ride on Pol’s bike in Spielberg.

“Of course we would like to have two bikes for the home race. Also to be fair, to ride these bikes you don’t find these people [who can do it] around the corner. You have to have a meaning. The people who can ride these bikes, most of them have a contract.”

Leitner also revealed some of Smith’s mechanical issues suffered over the weekend were a consequence of Mika Kallio’s absence in the test team, due to the serious knee injury suffered at the Sachsenring.

“We had some electrical issues,” he said of Smith’s mechanicals on Saturday, which were related to a new engine. “We try of course always to bring some new items to races because we don’t have a test rider now so you are forced to bring some things to the race team. Not everything is working out in the first moments. So the situation, we don’t have Mika, is making our life on the race weeks hard.”

So will they sample the new engine again at the Red Bull Ring? “This we have to analyse because we stopped sometimes. We have some small issues. We have to be really 100 percent sure if we do this again. Probably at the home race with one rider we will start the race playing safe.”

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