Sebastien Ogier says he was trying to build a cushion over the field in anticipation of having to run first on the road on Saturday when he crashed out of Rally Australia halfway through leg one.
The Citroen driver was nine seconds clear of Ford's Mikko Hirvonen in second place and looked set to carve into Sebastien Loeb's points advantage as the championship leader had already rolled two stages earlier.
Conditions were extremely difficult on Friday due to the combination of heavy rain on the stages and hard Michelin tires better suited to dry stages, but Ogier said the crash was more due to him pushing to extend his lead than the slippery surface. Citroen expected the weather would be better on Saturday and that the road would therefore be very dusty for the overnight leader.
"The stage was really tricky – we had absolutely no grip with the hard tire. But before that it was OK," he said. "We were trying to get a gap to the Ford drivers because we knew that tomorrow was going to be a cleaning day. But we went a bit wide on a left-hand corner and we just touched a small bank with the rear of the car and then we did a spin, but during this spin we hit a tree with the front of the car and we destroyed the radiator."
The Citroen duo's accidents on leg one mean that Ford pair Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala start Saturday stages in 1-2 formation, and with team orders likely to be applied to give Hirvonen the best possible shot at gaining ground in the championship.