The fight for this year's Junior World Rally Championship took a decisive turn on this morning's opening stage, when Aaron Burkart went off the road at the flying finish.
Suzuki driver Burkart held a seven-point advantage over Han Weijs Jr when they arrived at the final round, this week's Catalunya Rally. The German was third overnight and pushing to pass Weijs, whose Citroen was one place ahead of him.
Burkart said a front wheel had come off his Swift, causing him to go off the road.
"We were braking for this corner," he said. "I turned in and we lost the front wheel. Maybe I was too aggressive in some cuts, there were some quite some aggressive cuts there [in the stage], but we did not hit a stone or nothing, it was a normal cut.
"We went straight [off the road]. I pulled the handbrake, but nothing. We didn't hit a stone, just the normal cuts, of course, there are forces to the front wheel..."
The second place Weijs holds at the moment would be enough for him to be crowned Junior World Rally champion, but the Dutchman still has to get to the end of the event and score eight points. Burkart was understandably distraught. He added: "I'm quite upset and I'm on the edge of crying at the moment. The stage was good, the time was good and 50 meters to the finish and this bloody wheel came off."
This could be the second time Burkart has lost a Junior title fight on the final round of the series, following his 2008 defeat by Sebastien Ogier.