Richard Burns will miss this weekend's world championship decider in Rally GB after fainting at the wheel of his road car driving from London to the event's headquarters in Cardiff.
Estonia's Markko Martin, another competitor in the rally and Burns' passenger, grabbed the steering wheel and pulled the car on to the hard shoulder of the motorway. Burns regained consciousness but his physiotherapist, Steve Benton, following in a car behind, drove him to hospital in Newport, where he has undergone tests.
He was said to be "fine'' yesterday but his team, Peugeot, confirmed he had been withdrawn from the rally and have sought the FIA's permission to call up the Belgian Freddy Loix as Burns' replacement.
Burns, five points off the lead in the championship, admitted he had "little hope'' of claiming a second title, but his withdrawal is a major setback for the organisers of Rally GB, which starts in Cardiff on Thursday evening. The remaining contenders, Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz of Citroën, and Subaru's Petter Solberg, are involved in a winner- takes-all contest.
For Burns it is a sorry end to an unfulfilled association with Peugeot, whom he joined from Subaru as world champion two years ago. He has failed to win a rally since then and now returns to Subaru, maintaining his skills were "under-utilised'' by the French team and that they never "loved" him as much as their other world championship winner, Marcus Gronholm.