Citroen guest driver Kris Meeke was left 'terribly disappointed' on Saturday when he rolled out of Rally Australia.
Meeke had impressed on Thursday and Friday and was running fourth overall, just 8 seconds off Thierry Neuville and third place following the morning loop.
However, disaster struck in the first test after the mid-day service, appropriately SS13, when the Brit went off the road in Nambucca 2 and rolled his DS3 WRC car seven times down a steep hillside.
He was left with no option but to retire and it remains to be seen now if his mechanics will be able to fix his car so he can re-start on Sunday under Rally 2.
“It's quite simple. I made a mistake by braking a little bit too late,” Meeke lamented. “The car turned into the corner, but we ran wide and slipped off the road and down a steep bank into a field. We rolled several times, very slowly.
“I'm terribly disappointed, for myself but especially for the team who had put their trust in me.
“I'm just very sorry.”
Meeke had been under instructions to ensure he made it to the finish, as Citroen
needed the points to maintain its challenge in the Manufacturers' Championship. The Northern Irishman was also under pressure as he needed to perform to try and secure a drive with the team in 2014.
Asked if he thinks the error might affect his chances, he told the official WRC site: “I don't know - it's up to the team. It's always difficult, you know. Finland was a one-off opportunity and then there was another one-off opportunity here. When it's one-off opportunities all the time it's difficult. But okay, I was given instructions to have a clean race here and I haven't done it. So we'll have to see what the outcome is.”
Meeke's exit means all hopes of a good result for the Citroen
Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team now rest with Mikko Hirvonen. Hirvonen has held P2 since SS6 on Friday and he remains on course for the runners-up spot, although he also had a scare in Nambucca, albeit on the first run through.
“I was pushing really hard, but I had a bit of a scary moment on a hairpin. I came out of the corner too wide and the rear of the car wasn't really on the road anymore. I had a lucky escape and eased off a bit at the end of the stage,” he recounted.
“There's not much to say about this afternoon's loop. The second runs were very hard on the tyres and so I tried to look after them,” he added.
“My aim for tomorrow will be to hold onto second place. Another podium finish would enable us to score some important points.”