Citroen driver Kris Meeke says he is "grateful" to his team for building "such a strong car" after he emerged unhurt from a huge Rally Portugal crash.
The Northern Irishman went off the road in his C3 WRC on a fifth-gear right hander on Saturday morning’s first run at the Amarante stage – previously one of Meeke’s favoured stretches of road on the Matosinhos-based event.
Meeke, who was taken to hospital and later released after precautionary checks, and co-driver Paul Nagle were fortunate to escape what was a frightening crash into the trees.
“I turned into a fast left-hand corner a little bit late,” said Meeke. “I missed my line and got onto the loose gravel on the outside of the corner and lost control of the car.
"Obviously, I’m sorry for the whole team, who clearly deserved better. I’m really, very grateful they built such a strong car.”
Despite the shunt, Meeke said he could see the positives in the speed and feeling he took from the C3 compared with the car’s performance in Portugal 12 months ago.
He added: “It was my mistake, of course, so I'll take it on the chin. But the feeling in my C3 WRC was so good here in Portugal that I can’t help but take the positives away from this weekend.”
Team principal Pierre Budar said: “Obviously, it’s disappointing for us to see Kris and Paul go off the road, but we are above all relieved that they have escaped more or less unscathed.”
Meeke’s teammates Mads Ostberg and Craig Breen are running sixth and seventh respectively.