Francois Duval's co-driver Patrick Pivato will be operated on tonight after he suffered a fractured pelvis and fractured tibia in the accident in SS6 of the Rally Japan on Friday afternoon.

The incident occurred 4.8 kilometres into Yuparo 2 on a fast muddy section of road when Duval slid wide into a crash barrier in his Ford Focus RS WRC heavily impacting a steel support pole on the co-driver's side door.

First on the scene were Stobart Ford team-mates Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin who aided Duval in alerting safety officials.

The stage was subsequently cancelled to allow medical crews easier access to the crew's car. Once he was freed from the wreckage, Pivato was airlifted to Higashi Tokushukai hospital in Sapporo. Duval was uninjured.

"Tonight Patrick will be operated on to fix a fractured pelvis and tibia he sustained in a high speed accident with Francois today," Ford boss, Malcolm Wilson confirmed. "The accident happened about five kilometres into stage 6 when Francois got slightly caught out on a slippery, high-speed section and the car slid wide into the Armco.

"There was a large steel post holding some wire which the car had a heavy impact with on Patrick's side. The event safety crews did a fantastic job in getting to the scene quickly and safely extracting Patrick from the car before airlifting him to hospital.

"Matthew and Scott also need to be commended on their handling of the situation with Francois' accident; arriving first on the scene they accessed the situation and took exactly the right actions to help their team-mates safely out of the stage."

Matthew Wilson meanwhile ended day 1 in sixth, less than 11 seconds off Chris Atkinson in fourth. The young Brit however has P-G Andersson nipping at his heals just 0.4 seconds behind so will need to be on the ball in the morning when stage 11 gets underway at 08:28 hours [local time].

"Well it has been quite an eventful day and I hope Patrick is doing OK in hospital tonight as he undergoes surgery," said the youngster. "It is good to finish the day sixth and in a position to fight for a top-four spot but OK we have seen what has happened today and there is a long way to go in this event.

"The first two stages went really well this morning and it's great to have found the speed right from the word go. The stages were getting quite rutted even running just ninth on the road and the one proper stage we did this afternoon was quite tricky. On stage two we struggled a little bit with the small Tarmac sections on the stage because it was difficult to judge the braking points entering these sections. The pacenotes also didn't quite gel this morning but we made quite a few changes during the stages and this seemed to help on stage 5 this afternoon."