Hayden Paddon says his fiery exit from Rally de Portugal is a “hard pill to swallow” given it was a relatively small accident.
Paddon rolled his new generation Hyundai i20 WRC down a bank in SS5 on Friday, the repeat run through the 27.44 km Ponte de Lima test.
The heat from the car's exhaust then set the surrounding trees alight and while Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were able to escape, they were only able to save their crash helmets, before fire engulfed the #3 car.
“This afternoon, on the first stage after service, we got caught out with a hole on the inside of a corner which kicked the car out to the bank, then put it down off the road,” explained Paddon, who took his maiden win last time out in Argentina. “The accident itself was not so big, but unfortunately the exhaust caught fire with the bushes and the rest is history.
“Unfortunately, the car burnt to the ground, so there's not much left that's salvageable. It's pretty cruel, a pretty hard pill to swallow with the consequences a lot more than the accident actually warranted.
“I feel really sorry for the team; they've got a big task ahead to get ready for our next event in Sardinia in early June. Of course we'll come back stronger, so we'll focus on that now and put this one behind us.”
Paddon, running second on the road behind Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier, had been running sixth overall prior to his accident.
“We started the morning quite well despite some small technical niggles,” he continued. “We didn't lose too much time and were definitely keeping in touch. We were hoping to close the gap in the afternoon loop, but it wasn't to be.
“Obviously this is not the result we wanted.”
Meanwhile, Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan said the team was relieved to see Paddon and Kennard escape unharmed.
“We are all glad that Hayden and John are OK after their incident on Friday afternoon,” he confirmed. “Unfortunately, the car was burnt completely by the fire, putting an end to their rally.”