Allan McNish said his dramatic exit from the Le Mans 24 Hours was made all the more galling because of the fact that the Scot was sure that the Audi R18 was the car to have at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The Scot crashed out in a huge accident in the opening hour after clashing with the Ferrari of Anthony Beltoise after coming under the Dunlop Bridge, with neither driver seemingly fully aware of exactly where the other was on track.

The contact saw McNish go off into the barriers where he was lucky not to end up in a photographers area behind the tyre wall, although debris from the R18 did reach the area before the car came to rest upside down.

Once righted by marshals, McNish was able to get out of the wrecked car before going to hospital for checks before returning to the circuit, where his disappointment was clear at missing out on a potential victory.

"Timo Bernhard was in the lead just ahead and he slid wide coming out of the Dunlop chicane so I kept to the inside as he came back on and overtook him," he said, speaking before Audi's #2 car secured victory. "At the same time, I went down the inside of a GT class Ferrari which was just ahead.

"As I got past the first thing I knew was I was spinning towards the wall on the left hand side and so immediately realised that he'd tagged the left rear of my car with the right front of his. After that I was just along for the ride. It was a very big accident - I think everybody realises that. I climbed out of the car by myself then taken to the Medical Centre for a check-up and then had a scan at a local hospital but was given the all-clear.

"I have to say a huge thank you to the Audi designers because they have produced a car that could survive an enormous impact allowing the driver to open the door and get out unharmed. It's a big disappointment for the entire team. For Tom and Dindo because the car we were given by our mechanics and engineers was really, really good. I think it was the car to have and that means we all have a flat feeling."