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Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will take no further part in Rally de Portugal, having rolled their Hyundai i20 WRC rally car on Friday afternoon (European time) and the car then burning to the ground.

Paddon and Kennard were thankfully unharmed in the incident which Paddon said was started by a relatively small accident as their car rolled down a bank. With Paddon and Kennard still in the car, the heat from the car’s exhaust set surrounding trees alight. The pair quickly escaped the car, able to save only their crash helmets, before the resultant fire destroyed the #3 New Generation i20 WRC car within five minutes. Another competitor, Ott Tanak, crashed in the same place and was able to prevent his Ford also going up in flames.
 
“Obviously not the rally result we wanted,” said Paddon on his return to the service park in the host city of Matosinhos, in the north of Portugal.
 
“This afternoon, on the first stage after service, 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. The accident itself was not so big, but unfortunately the exhaust caught fire with the bushes and the rest is history. Unfortunately, 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.
 
“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. Of course we’ll come back stronger, so we’ll focus on that now and put this one behind us.”
 
The New Zealanders were in sixth place overall among a close-fought top eight before the rally-ending incident, having completed the first three stages of Friday’s eight-stage itinerary. Running second on the road behind three-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, Paddon said: “We started the morning quite well despite some small technical niggles. 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.”
 
Regulations do not allow the team to put Paddon and Kennard into a team-mate’s car to continue competing in the rally, so they have officially retired from the event which continues on Saturday and Sunday with Citroën driver Kris Meeke in the lead ahead of Ogier and Paddon’s Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo.
 
Paddon and Kennard return to WRC competition next month with the 9-12 June running of Rally Sardinia, an event where they secured their first-ever WRC podium finish in 2015.

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