The Skoda Motorsport Rally team achieved its greatest success to date in the World Rally Championship coming home third in the Safari Rally Kenya. The rally, considered the toughest in the World Rally Championship, also claimed some of rallying's biggest names who fell victim to this tough, unforgiving test of power and endurance.

One of those was the Skoda crew Bruno Thiry and Stephane Prevot, who on the last special stage, crashed their Octavia WRC and were taken by helicopter to Nairobi hospital in Kenya's capital.

There it was discovered that co-driver Prevot had suffered a broken vertebrae. It seems certain that Prevot will not be fit to make it to the next world rally in Finland.

Thiry, who has had a run of bad luck in previous Safari Rallies was hoping that in 2001 his luck would turn and he would bring his Octavia WRC safely to the finish. Right until the final moments of the Rally it looked like he might.

Lying in room 12 of the Nairobi hospital he spoke about his disappointment...

Q: Bruno, can you tell at this moment what has caused your accident?

Bruno Thiry: "At first I have to admit it really was not a normal accident. An accident is when you are way too fast and go off the track. But in my case I had just come in a deep ditch in third gear and should have been braking earlier and going into second gear.

"I really do not remember but I guess I lost my concentration, losing Stephane's pace notes dictation for about two seconds and that was a crucial moment. My problem was that I was exhausted when I went into this stage because I had driven the 70 kms of the previous test without power steering. And you have to try to drive a car like WRC without this to understand what it is like."

Q: After hitting the ditch, what was next?

Thiry: "My Octavia WRC just stuck its nose into the ground and caught fire. We killed that fire but it was a problem for Stephane to move after he got out of the car. Of course, my helicopter pilot immediately turned back and called the helicopters of Harri and Tommi, [Rovanpera and Makinen who were in second and first place] and both came to the collision spot and since both were carrying doctors onboard, we knew we were safe. They checked on us and as soon as they saw our lives were not in immediate danger they informed our team and transported us to hospital."

Q: So it all looked like you were going to conquer Africa this time with Skoda and finally it went all wrong on the last section...?

Thiry: "Yes, it is really ridiculous what happened. It cannot be just bad luck. The Safari is probably cursed for me. I cannot get another explanation. It really is a tough tough event. Long stages, and rough terrain and deep ditches you sometimes cannot see. One of them cost me my dream to finish here. I have to say I have never experienced anything like today's leg."

Q: What were your feelings when Skoda Team Manager Pavel Janeba visited and told you about the phenomenal achievement of Armin and Manfred?

Thiry: "I am really happy for them and the whole team too. My only regret is that Skoda's success was not fulfilled with our car seeing the finish. But I am really concerned about our outing in Finland. Now it is clear that Stephane will not be able to compete there. I do not want to be thinking about that now but I will have to solve this problem in a very few days."

Co-driver Stephane Prevot was in nearby room 7, and ironically, watching coverage of the rally on local Kenyan TV. He was in a positive mood, but clearly also disappointed with retirement in the very last stage.

Q: Stephane, how did you see the things on special stage 13?

Stephane Prevot: "Well, Bruno was really really tired after section 12. After I saw that before the ditch he was not slowing down as he was supposed to after our pace notes, I read it again and nothing was happening. Then I screamed "brakes!" but it was then too late even though he tried to do his best.

"After I got out of the car, I could barely move. Now they have given me an injection to kill the pain but what I am worried about is the transportation back home to Belgium. I guess I will need a specially equipped aircraft since I am not able to sit down."

Q: How will this accident affect your future programme?

Prevot: "I definitely cannot be present in Finland. That is bad, really, but I can't risk going there and have problems moving for the rest of my life. I have to make sure I fully recover so I can sit again in the co-driver's seat - the sooner the better for me and Bruno. Now I have different things to solve - like the transportation back home and also all the paperwork with my insurance to pay for this casualty."