With victory seemingly assured, Kris Meekes Citroën C3 plunged off the road into a spectator car park 750 metres from the finish of the final Power Stage yesterday afternoon.
In a classic comedy moment, the disoriented Ulsterman weaved in and out of parked vehicles as he desperately tried to find a way out of the field and protect his near-40 second lead (see video below).
He eventually found a hole in a hedge through which he regained the road. But still the drama was not over as he limped to the finish with a puncture, finally crossing the line with 13.8sec in hand over Sébastien Ogier to secure victory.
“I made a mistake, a big mistake,” he said. “I braked and got the car too sideways through this fast right, and as I hit the compression it popped me out and we went into a field. After that I was in the hands of the Gods.
“I started to go through some trucks and they started to narrow up. I thought I was going to come to a dead end so I handbraked around a truck to go back the way I came, not knowing there was a way out until I saw a gap in the fence and went for it.
“I’m not particularly delighted with myself but we’ve won the rally, so I’m happy. I had no idea I’d won when I crossed the line but quickly people started shaking their fists and then I knew. I’m sure Yves Matton (team principal) will shake his fist at me later for a different reason!”