VALENCIA, Spain, Nov 3 (Reuters) Five-times world champion Valentino Rossi may be forced to miss his first ever MotoGP race after breaking bones in his right hand in a heavy crash during qualification for the Valencia Grand Prix today.
The 28-year-old Italian lost control of his Yamaha after the first curve at the Ricardo Tormo circuit and was bounced along the tarmac before being thrown off into the gravel.
Rossi was able to walk away from the crash although he was clearly in pain as he grasped his injured hand. His bike was almost totally destroyed.
''The X-rays show that he has broken three bones in his right hand,'' doctor Claudio Costa told Spanish state television.
''It is going to be very difficult for him to ride this weekend,'' added Yamaha team director Davide Brivio.
Rossi, who has taken part in every race since the advent of the MotoGP category in 2002, said he would not make a final decision until tomorrow morning.
''I will see how I am and then make a decision after further consideration with Claudio,'' he said.
''I have never missed a race in my career and I really don't want to do it tomorrow.
''I remember last year the pain was more or less the same, but then I was challenging for the championship. Tomorrow I am challenging for second place - it's not quite the same.'' Rossi needs a point to guarantee finishing as runner-up in the championship for the second season in a row.
If he does not make the start line tomorrow, Spain's Dani Pedrosa could pip him to the runners-up spot behind world champion Casey Stoner if he wins the race.
The Italian has not finished outside the top two in any class since his rookie season in the 125cc category in 1996.
He lost the world title last season after sliding off the track during the final race in Valencia.
REUTERS RJ KP2245