Paul Bird saw his hopes of a top ten finish disappear just a few stages from home when he was forced to retire on day three of the RACC Rally Catalunya.
Along with co-driver Ian Windress, Bird was making his foreign debut in the World Rally Championship, running at the wheel of the factory-backed Munchi's Ford Team as team-mate to Argentine driver Federico Villagra and, straight away, justified his 'A' seeding with a clear run through day one to hold 13th at the end of the leg.
Gaining confidence in the Ford Focus WRC, the British pair gained a place the following day as they homed in on the top ten on the Spanish tarmac around the Costa Dorada city of Salou. However, just as they had an impressive result in their sights, an error on the short Serra D'Almos stage saw them have to retire in bizarre circumstances following an overshoot.
"Everything was going great and we were getting faster but then, on SS15, the notes didn't quite work and we ended up overshooting a corner," Bird explained, "When I realised I wasn't going to make it, I took a narrow escape road and it was just a case of spinning the car round. But, just as I did, this wall on which some spectators were sitting collapsed and blocked the road, and that meant we couldn't continue. We tried to clear a path, but one guy had hurt his leg and was in the way, so we had to park it up whilst the medics saw to him."
Despite his misfortune, the Cumbrian has vowed to be back and contest more WRC events next season.
"Competing against the likes of [Sebastien] Loeb and [Dani] Sordo is where I want to be and it has been a great experience," he admitted, "In fact, it's the best rally I've ever done. Thanks to M-Sport for their help in sorting the entry and I hope to be back soon."