Bryan Bouffier has had to retire from Rallye Monte Carlo after his off in the second stage on Thursday night.

Bouffier, who put in a sensational performance on this event twelve months ago - leading from SS3 to SS9, until a spin dropped him to second behind eventual winner, Sebastien Ogier - reported two "moments" in SS1, before his exit in the 19.68 km Norante-Digne-les Bains test, when he hit a tree with quite considerable force.

Bouffier and co-driver Xavier Panseri both escaped unharmed, but their M-Sport-run Fiesta RS WRC car was too badly damaged for them to restart on Friday under Rally 2.

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Speaking in the pre-event press conference, the Frenchman had said he was hoping to finish in the top-five...

"It's always difficult to plan something, especially on a race so tricky as Monte-Carlo. On this kind of event you can go off on more or less every corner," he said. "My aim though is top five and the dream would be a 100 per cent French podium with these two guys in front of me [Sebastien Loeb and Ogier]. That would be great for our country. It has been very difficult to get the budget, but it is a great pleasure to drive again - I fight to get a lot of pleasure and to be fast."

"There is not a secret [to this event]," he added, "you just have to stay really concentrated, slow down when it is slippery and then go flat out when have the good grip - this is the key. As for the tyres, it is always complicated, so the key is to get it right and be clever...."