WRC Rally Portugal clerk defends handling of Paddon's crash fire

Rally of Portugal clerk of the course Pedro Almeida has defended the handling of Hayden Paddon's fiery crash on last week's World Rally Championship round

WRC Rally Portugal clerk defends handling of Paddon's crash fire

Almeida admitted he had been prepared to allow the whole World Rally Car field past Paddon's burning Hyundai and only stopped the stage when Ott Tanak's Ford crashed at the same place.

Paddon explains crash that led to WRC Portugal blaze

He felt the i20's positioning meant there was no way it could be saved and was satisfied the crew were unhurt and the stage clear.

"My position is this, you stop the stage under one of two conditions: the road is blocked or you need to send urgent medical assistance to anybody," Almeida told Autosport.

"If the road is clear and no assistance is necessary, from my point of view there is no reason to stop the stage.

"What I'm going to say is not politically correct, but this is rallying. This is not a circuit. You must be prepared, as a driver, for unexpected things.

"The crash was less than 100 metres before a radio point. Immediately we knew about the accident and we knew the drivers were safe, the car was in flames and around there was a lot of fire.

"The situation for the car was critical and there was nothing we could do about it.

"We have two eye in the sky helicopters. Less than one minute after the accident, we had the footage.

"We have a rally route and the access road and the car and fire were in the middle. It was clear we could do nothing about the car, because of the location, humidity and the tracks and the fire was restricted to a certain area.

"The rally route was always clear. All the drivers went through without any major problems. My intention was to send all of the [World Rally] cars through the stage.

"If car 12 did not have this accident I would've continued until the last P1 car went through the stage."

The accidents happened on the event's fifth stage, Ponte de Lima, last Friday afternoon.

Paddon and Tanak were caught out by a drop in the road that had not been there on the first pass in the morning.

Paddon's i20 WRC went off the road, where the hot exhaust set fire to the grass and surrounding trees.

Tanak was furious with the clerk's decision and the lack of warning at the incident site.

"There was no information, no marshals, no flags nothing," said the Estonian.

"We went off the road and landed straight into the middle of the fire.

"It wasn't just Paddon's car that was on fire - it was the whole forest."

Tanak quickly organised a four-wheel-drive vehicle to tow his Fiesta clear of the blaze.

"I tried to get the extinguisher out of the car, but I couldn't get in - the doorhandle had melted," he said.

M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson praised Tanak's efforts.

"Ott went way above and beyond what we expected him to do," he said.

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Series WRC
Drivers Hayden Paddon
Author David Evans
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