Sassari - Sebastien Loeb, who claimed his ninth successive world drivers title on home ground in France a fortnight ago, crashed out of the Rally of Italy in Sardinia during Friday's third special stage.
"We hit some rocks at the outside of a corner" on the slick, narrow road after just 5km of the 30km Monte Lerno stage, said Loeb.
"I felt that the steering was damaged and tried to continue. But we had to stop."
It was not clear whether Loeb would restart or not, but his Citroen team earlier said: "There's little chance that Sebastien will continue given the slim chance he has to win the rally."
Loeb was the overnight leader by one second from his Finnish team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, who now heads the field from Ford rival Petter Solberg.
Belgian driver Thierry Neuville earlier lost six minutes after a lack of concentration led to his rolling the Qatar World Rally Team Citroen DS3 WRC he was piloting.
Having started day two in fourth position overall, Neuville said: "I was not concentrating enough, didn't hear a pace note, and we went off.
"The car was on the side but we managed to continue although I have hurt my right hand because it was not easy (getting the car on its wheels) with just two persons."