Kris Meeke found himself in a surprise second place at the end of the first day of Rally Deutschland.
He had been in a now familiar third place, again tracking the Volkswagens of the World championship's dominant duo of Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala when the rally was turned on its head on the final stage of the opening leg.
The World champion. Mr Perfect. The man with a 100% finishing record this season, the winner of five rounds so far, the World championship leader.
But for once the French ace slipped up, his VW Polo flying off the road on stage six and plunging down through a steep field of vines before finishing up on another road running parallel.
Although damage to the car was light, there was no way back and he had to return to the overnight service park in Trier.
Ogier was expected to restart today under Rally2 rules but with a 10 penalty which will leave him just outside the top 30 and out of contention for victory.
His exit left team-mate Latvala in the lead pursued by the Abu Dhabi Citroen DS3 of Meeke who finished the first leg 37 seconds behind the Finn.
Hoping to build on the momentum of his strong third place in Finland earlier in the month, the Dungannon driver made a shaky start, caught out by loose gravel on the first stage and smacking the rear of the Citroen against a bank. He also struggled on a muddy stage two, falling to fifth. But Meeke came storming back, climbing to third before being promoted to second after Ogier's accident. He admitted he hadn't been able to match the pace of the Volkswagen pair on his first tarmac rally in three years but was delighted to be best of the rest.
He was six seconds ahead of the Hyundai of Dani Sordo, last year's winner in Germany, with Andreas Mikkelsen fourth for VW, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) fifth and Ford's Mikko Hirvonen sixth.
Meeke's Citroen team-mate Mads Ostberg was eighth behind the Ford of young Welshman Elfyn Evans. Sam Moffett, on his first WRC appearance, was 12th in his Fiesta, Marty McCormack was 22nd and seventh in WRC2 in his R5 Fiesta and Alastair Fisher 30th, fifth in the Junior championship in his Citroen.