The Spaniard – who was running eighth on the road on his return to the Land of the Rising Sun – was forced to bring his I20 N Rally1 supermini to a sudden stop 10-miles into the ‘Isegami’s Tunnel’ test when smoke started billowing from the rear.

Sordo managed to escape the car uninjured with co-driver Candido Carrera before he attempted to douse the flames with a handheld extinguisher.

When he arrived at the scene of the incident, the images captured by the in-car camera on Gus Greensmith’s Ford Puma Rally1 confirmed the fire was well established and suggested Sordo’s Hyundai was beyond saving.

A short time later, organisers confirmed the test had been cancelled on safety grounds for the remaining crews, with the delays caused by the fire also leading to SS3 being scrubbed from the itinerary.

“The crew is okay and that is the main thing,” said Hyundai Motorsport’s Deputy Team Director, Julien Moncet. “It is a sight that nobody wants to see – a huge drama, huge disappointment.

“At the moment, we have no further information other than what we have seen from the videos. Unfortunately, I think it will be difficult to find out the real cause of this because I think there will be nothing left of the car.”

Based on the footage Moncet and his team watched back at the service park, the initial feeling is it could have been caused by the exhaust.

“The right rear is the side of the exhaust – that is the only thing we can think about, but it could be many reasons and maybe something completely different,” added the Frenchman.

“We will try to analyse what is left and figure it out but I am not sure we will find something.”

Sordo explained the first indication that he knew something was not right was when the cockpit began to fill with petrol fumes. “It was coming really quickly since the beginning of the stage,” explained the WRC veteran.

“The car was smelling of petrol a lot and just here in a straight line the fire was coming between the seats with a lot of smoke, so I stopped the car.

“After a few minutes it started to burn. It was coming from the rear and we tried to put it out but it was absolutely impossible. I'm sorry for the team – to lose a car like this, it's a bad day.”