EX-FORMULA One driver Erik Comas will continue with his plans to become a professional rally driver - despite crashing out of his world championship debut today.

Midway through today's second leg of the Perth-based Telstra Rally Australia, his Loctite Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6 understeered off the edge of a long downhill corner, clipped a tree stump and triple-rolled down a steep hillside.

Comas and navigator Jean Paul Terrasse escaped unhurt, but the car, which came to rest on its wheels about 30 metres below the road, was too badly damaged to continue.

"Of course I am very disappointed," said Comas later, "but this is the reality of rallying.

The former Ligier and Larrousse Grand Prix racer says his desire to become a rally driver at international level is undiminished after this first taste: "It has been a costly learning process for me, but I know now that one thing I must do for sure is do some testing.

"Also I must learn to do the pace notes better - I must ask the advice of people like (world championship drivers) Francois Delecour and Didier Auriol on how to do this properly.

"But there's no way I want to abort my rallying project just because of this."

Comas says he was finding it hard to cope with understeer in his Mitsubishi today - leading to him overshooting on three corners earlier in the day. Each time he avoided leaving the road or hitting anything.

"And I really thought on the corner where we crashed that we were going to be okay. I thought I would get the car back on the road - and then we hit the tree stump!"

Until then, despite the difficulties he was having in getting used to the car's handling, Comas was holding onto 32nd place outright and 14th in the Group N production car class. It was a creditable performance from a driver making his rookie appearance in a World Rally Championship event.

That's particularly so since he had just a one-hour test session in the car before this Australian round of the World Rally Championship.

The man who drove in F1 for four years, won the F.I.A. Formula 3000 championship and has taken repeat titles in the Japanese GT championship, was under no illusions about the difficulties of switching to rallying before Rally Australia.

"It's a big challenge: It's difficult to find a good pace which is also a safe pace. On the racetrack it's very easy to find the limit and stay there, whereas in rallying it's very easy to find one corner that puts you over the limit!

That was made even more difficult because the pace-notes he and Terrasse made during their reconnaissance were, he discovered on Friday's first leg of Rally Australia, "not good enough."

Because they could not trust the instructions, Comas was forced to drive more conservatively than he wanted..or risk going into corners too fast.

Meantime, the second Loctite car, driven by young Belgian brothers Bob and Tom Colsoul, today steadily recovered in the outright standings after yesterday's nightmare chain of events.

They got a puncture in one competitive stage and decided to stop and change the tyre to avoid causing damage to the Lancer Evo. 6. But the jack jammed under the car, costing them seven minutes.

Today they climbed back up the order from 48th outright to 33rd (and 16th in Group N), running as high as 26th on stages during their charge.

Rally Australia finishes tomorrow afternoon after another four special stages.