Thierry Neuville was forced out of Rally de Portugal on Saturday when he hit a tree in the opening stage.

The Qatar World Rally Team man had been running fifth overall at the end of day one and was determined to try and fight for his second successive podium of the year.

However roughly seven kilometres into the SS6, the first-run through the 31.12 km Santana de Serra stage, he slide wide in his M-Sport-run Fiesta RS WRC car and made contact with a tree, which damaged the suspension and put an end to his day's rallying.

He will now re-start on Sunday under the Rally 2 regulations, albeit way down the order in 32nd position and almost 20 minutes off a place in the top ten.

"It was in a tight right-hand corner about seven or eight kilometres into the stage. I felt that we were going off line and I tried to slow the car down but we were carrying too much speed and hit a tree with the front-right wheel," Neuville recalled.

"I tried to avoid it but we were sliding too much and there was nothing we could do. There was no damage on the car at all. Just one bent bolt which we were unable to fix ourselves."

"We decided this morning to keep the pressure on because many things can happen and we could have still been in the fight for a podium," he added, when asked what his strategy was. "It was a mistake on my part - I lost control and didn't have the opportunity to correct it in time.

"Nicolas [Gilsoul, my co-driver] and I have made some big improvements with the pacenotes and driving this year and I felt that we improved again this weekend. Okay these things happen, but it should not be so often now!"

Qatar M-Sport team principal, Malcolm Wilson meanwhile felt Neuville was 'unlucky' to go out in Santana de Serra 1.

"Luck has not been on our side this weekend. Thierry was ready to put the front-runners under pressure this morning and he was very unlucky to go off where he did. It's a disappointment for the team, but we can see that he is continually improving," Wilson remarked.


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