A heartbroken Kris Meeke admits he doesn't know what the future holds after his dream debut drive with eight-time World champions Citroen ended when he crashed out of Rally Finland.
The former IRC champion from Dungannon, back in the WRC for the first time in over 18 months, had been in a strong fifth position, one place behind his Finnish team leader Mikko Hirvonen and three minutes ahead of Spanish No.2 Dani Sordo with just a handful of miles remaining, when his Abu Dhabi Citroen DS3 careered off the road on the iconic Ouninophja switchback stage.
Meeke had cleared Ouninophja's roller coaster jumps and was into the final narrow two-mile stretch, the timing splits showing he was on course to set the third fastest time, but it wasn't to be.
"It was a fifth gear corner and the car started to slide in the loose gravel," he explained. "It had happened dozens, hundreds, of times before and I thought it would be fine but the rear wheels caught something and it flipped over, ending up in the bushes."
Meeke and co-driver Chris Patterson were uninjured but in agony just the same.
"You can't imagine the pain I'm feeling after a near perfect rally ended like this," Meeke added. "It was fantastic to work with such a great team and I'm sorry I didn't repay them by bringing home some World championship points.
"I don't know where we go from here."
Citroen Sport boss Yves Matton, who saw his team fail to make in the Finland podium for the first time in almost a decade, was non-committal, saying he would study the data, including the on-board camera footage, before coming to a conclusion.
"We're disappointed for Kris, who produced an impressive performance in his first rally in the DS3. It's a shame he wasn't able to turn his good form into strong result by making it to the end," said Matton who had to watch one of his former drivers, Sebastien Ogier, take a stunning victory for Volkswagen ahead of the Ford's of Thierry Neuville and Mads Ostberg.
However, the Irish contingent still had cause for celebration with Keith Cronin and Marshall Clarke winning the two-wheel-drive division in their R2 Citroen and taking the lead in the important Citroen Top Driver series.
Michael Orr partnered Yazeed Al-Rahji to 12th place and third in the WRC2 division while Robert Barrable was 19th.