The 00 car at a rally has an important function: run the course before the competitors to inspect everything from signage and bannering to whether or not spectators are in the right locations. That is, unless it’s on fire. Then it doesn’t do a very good job of checking anything.

Course opening cars are numbered 000, 00 and 0, with 0 being the last to check over the stage before sending competitors at speed. In this case, 00 was left on stage to burn out, and thankfully, both its driver and codriver escaped the blaze unharmed.

The second stage at Ponte de Lima was already dramatic due to forest fires in the area which filled the air with a smoky haze. The later Ponte de Lima stage of the weekend (SS5) was cancelled due to forest fires being too close to the area.

You could see the torched hellscape that was Ponte de Lima this weekend in this view of Kris Meeke’s run through SS2.

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The char-broiled 00 car, of course, didn’t help.

Citroën driver Mads Østberg caught up to the car on stage, which was a bit of a surreal moment. Here’s the air, filled with smoke, and now there’s a safety vehicle on stage engulfed in flame. Great.

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Fortunately, you can see both the driver and the codriver safely out of the car on Østberg’s onboard camera.

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Either way, that’s much closer to a car-b-que than I’d prefer to travel.

“For me, the stage was okay,” said Østberg after the stage. “It was like being in a movie set, to be honest. From about 18 kilometers to the end, it’s fire everywhere, it’s smoke, it’s uh, quite interesting. It doesn’t look real. It’s like a game.”

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I knew I recognized Grand Theft Rally: Portugal when I saw it.


Contact the author at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com.