LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon escaped with his life after his rally car caught fire during a nasty crash. Image: YouTube
Matosinhos, Portugal - New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon escaped unharmed after his Hyundai car overturned and burst into flames in a harrowing exit at the Rally of Portugal.
Paddon was sitting second in the world championship after winning in Argentina last time out.
A Hyundai spokesman, who added that neither Paddon nor co-driver John Kennard were hurt, said: "After the car turned over, the undergrowth caught fire and the vehicle burned."
But the car was a burned-out shell within five minutes leaving Paddon and his team mate only able to salvage their helmets.
READ: Paddon holds off Ogier in Argentina
The same corner on the fifth stage also saw the Fiesta of Estonia's Ott Tanak come to grief but he is expected to rejoin the race on Saturday.
By the end of the day, Britain's Kris Meeke led the rally in his Citroen ahead of triple world champion Sebastien Ogier in a VW Polo-R.
See crash in video below:
Meeke was 35.2 seconds ahead of the Frenchman with Dani Sordo, in a Hyundai, in third spot at 39sec off the pace.
The dramatic fifth stage was cancelled before Meeke had a chance to go through but he was eventually credited with a time by stewards at 5.2sec faster than his rivals after he had been quickest by 5.6sec on the first run of Ponte de Lima in the morning.