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Paddon crashes out of Rally Portugal

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/05/2016

Fire has destroyed New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon's car after a heavy crash halfway into stage five in the Rally of Portugal.

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.

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 before continuing to the following Caminha test.

Paddon afterwards lamented the fallout from the crash, but said he would be working hard to return for Rally Italia next month.

"Unfortunately caught out by a big hole in the road that sent car off road. The hot exhaust then caught the bushes on fire," he said on Twitter.

"The consequences for a small mistake are very cruel and I'm very sorry for the team. We will come back stronger."

Paddon was looking to build on his breakthrough win in the World Rally Championship at Rally Argentina last month.

When Paddon piloted his Hyundai across the line in Argentina, he became the first New Zealand driver to win a WRC event in the championship's 40-year history.

The result lifted the 29-year-old from Geraldine to second on the points table behind Ogier.

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