Kiwi rally ace Hayden Paddon has made a disappointing start to his European campaign, crashing out of the Ypres Rally in Belgium today.
The South Canterbury driver's participation in the event ended at stage 14 after he spun out and hit a tree, breaking the car's radiator.
The 26-year-old had been running in the top five in his first appearance at the European Rally Championship event.
''The day started well as we were able to set some good times on the cleaner roads. But as the day wore on the roads began getting a little muddier which we struggled more than most on, which showed in the time,'' Paddon said.
''It has been a disappointing weekend but as always there are positives to take from it. I am now really looking forward to getting back on my preferred surface of gravel, where we will bounce back.''
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, impressed many by securing third place after Friday's first leg of six wet, muddy stages. They were the only competitors other than Belgium star Freddy Loix to win a stage.
The Kiwis started Saturday's lengthy 14-stage schedule right on the pace in their Symtech Racing-prepared, Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta S2000, setting the second-quickest time through the 14.34km opener behind UK's Craig Breen in a Peugeot.
Paddon continued with consistent pace - third and fifth quickest times - near the front of the leaderboard all morning, but by the midday service had slipped to fourth overall, hampered by the increasingly muddy tarmac roads.
Two more stages after lunch and Paddon set two more fourth-quickest times against competitors with massive tarmac rally experience.
Then came stage 14 and the crash which ended Paddon's hopes of finishing his first-ever ERC event.
He now turns his attention to the World Rally Championship-2 and his first event for 2013, Rally Finland early next month.
''We still have full confidence in achieving what we are setting out to do this year and this is just another small bump in the road.''
- © Fairfax NZ News