Picture: WRC.com via Youtube

Gap, France – The first stage of the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally was cancelled on Thursday after an incident involving Hayden Paddon caused the death of a spectator when the New Zealander rolled his Hyundai and blocked the icy road.

Neither Paddon nor navigator John Kennard were hurt but video images appeared to show a spectator tumbling down the rocky bank after the impact, with Hyundai Motorsport later issuing a statement saying the fan had passed away.

"Hyundai Motorsport is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of a spectator during the opening stage of Rallye Monte-Carlo on Thursday evening," Hyundai's statement said.

The incident occurred at the same time as the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC of Hayden Paddon and John Kennard crashed into the mountainside, after the car hit a patch of black ice at the entry to a left-hand turn.

"The team and crew have pledged their full support to the event organisers and authorities to understand the full details."

Paddon was almost at the end of the 21.25km Entrevaux-Ubraye stage when he lost control as he entered a left-hand corner and hit the bank back first.

A statement issued by the organisers in the early hours of Saturday morning said:

"The Automobile Club de Monaco regrets to advise further details following incident of the car #4 (Paddon/Kennard) in SS 1.

"The spectator was transported by helicopter from the stage to hospital in Nice. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff, the spectator has sadly died.

"An investigation has commenced into the incident and all involved parties will provide assistance to the authorities.

"Everyone associated with the event extends their deepest sympathies and condolences to the families, friends and individuals affected."

The longest day

The rally started in Monaco's Casino Square on Thursday before the field left for the opening night stages north to the town of Gap.

Friday will be the longest day, with more stages on Saturday before Sunday's final leg that includes the renowned Col de Turini, where ice and snow can cause problems.

France's four times world champion Sebastien Ogier, now driving an M-Sport Ford, has won the rally for the past three years for Volkswagen.

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