Urmo Aava looks set to re-start under the SupeRally rules on Saturday after retiring from day one of the Rally Ireland in SS6.
The Estonian, who is making his debut with the Stobart Ford team on this event, got off to a great start and by the end of the first loop was heading the overall classification, 6.7 seconds up on five-time world champion, Sebastien Loeb.
Despite being overhauled by the Frenchman in SS4 and then slipping back to fourth in SS5, he remained on course for a strong result, until his unfortunate exit on SS6 - the repeat run through the 25.19 kilometre Aughnasheelan test.
The accident occurred 6.6 kilometres in, when he went off the road and got stuck firmly in a ditch. With the help of spectators he eventually managed to free his Focus, but the Stobart team opted to retire him as a precaution to ensure his car did not suffer any additional damage.
It is now hoped Aava will be able to continue under the SupeRally rules after his car has been inspected by his mechanics.
"It's been a day of highs and lows,” said Aava, who ended up classified in eleventh. “This morning started well and it was great to be leading for my new Stobart team at the first service.
“Obviously I was disappointed with my time loss this afternoon. We slid on some mud on a slow left hand corner and got beached on a ditch at the side of the road. We were pretty well stuck and it took quite a bit of time for the spectators to get us back onto the road.
“I have been very encouraged by my times today though and look forward to going back out tomorrow, doing more kilometres in the car and getting my confidence back."
Following Aava's exit, Henning Solberg took over the mantle as the lead Stobart Ford driver. The Norwegian finished proceedings in fourth and in contention for a very good result on his least favoured surface, while Matthew Wilson lies eighth in the 'third' car not nominated to score manufacturers' points.
"We are enjoying it and setting our own pace to try and finish in the top five, which is our main aim for the weekend. I'm much higher up the leaderboard than I thought I would be at this stage,” said Henning.
“It's better that there is more rain because the slippery conditions work in our favour and I find it easier to drive on tarmac like that. We are not going to worry about the fight for podium positions but just concentrate on finishing and looking ahead to Norway."