Citroen Junior Team driver Conrad Rautenbach endured a disappointing finish to his challenge on Rally Portugal, after his C4 WRC was destroyed by fire on the final day.

The South African driver went off the road on the penultimate stage of the event while looking set to move into seventh place after Stobart VK M-Sport driver Matt Wilson rolled during the test.

Having gone off the at the same place as the Briton, Rautenbach was attempting to get back onto the road when the dry grass underneath the car was ignited by the hot exhaust on the C4 - with the fire spreading quickly and leaving Rautenbach's car as nothing other than a pile of charred metal.

"I jumped out with the extinguisher and Dan [Barritt, co-driver] and I stopped another three cars and got their extinguishers, but it just made absolutely no difference," he said. "The grass was burning under the car and you couldn't get down there. Once it took hold, there was absolutely nothing we could do. After about 10 minutes, the fire engine arrived, but it took them half an hour to put the fire out completely - that's when you realise how our extinguishers weren't even touching the surface.

"This is the first time I've ever had a car go on fire for me and you've got no idea how utterly helpless you feel until it happens. You just stand there watching this beautiful rally car that has taken thousands of hours to build and prepare going up in flames. It just doesn't bear thinking about. The main thing is that Dan and I were okay, but it's so frustrating that there was very little damage from the roll, but now the car is gutted.

"Portugal was a bit of a disaster for all of the Citroen Junior Team. We need a break right now, we've had a very tough start to the season. Hopefully that break will come in Argentina on the next event. Having finished fourth there last year, I certainly have happy memories of the place."


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