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Paddon crashes out of Rally Portugal

NZN 20/05/2016

Fire has destroyed Hayden Paddon's car after a heavy crash halfway into stage five of Rally Portugal, forcing the New Zealander out of the event.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were uninjured after his Hyundai i20 rolled at a heavily rutted corner 11.9km into the 27.4km stage in the north of Portugal.

The car burned out within five minutes, with Paddon and Kennard only able to save their crash helmets from the wreckage.

Minutes later, Estonian driver Ott Tanak rolled his Ford Fiesta RS at the same spot.

Although it also caught fire, spectators helped Tanak and co-driver Raigo Molder extinguish the flames with a hose, and it is believed the car isn't badly damaged.

Organisers cancelled the stage and the following competitors drove it non-competitively.

Paddon said the accident didn't initially appear too serious.

"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," he said.

"The accident itself was not so big, but unfortunately the exhaust caught fire with the bushes and the rest is history.

"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."

Paddon and Kennard were in sixth place overall among a close-fought top eight before the rally-ending incident three stages into the second day.

"We started the morning quite well, despite some small technical niggles," Paddon said.

"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.

"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."

Paddon was looking to build on his breakthrough win in the World Rally Championship at Rally Argentina last month when he became the first New Zealand driver to win a WRC event in the championship's 40-year history.

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