A New Zealander whose rally car "opened like a can" when it slammed into a concrete underpass is in a stable condition after having his leg amputated in Waikato Hospital.

Experienced rally driver Stuart Scoular crashed his Subaru Impreza WRX on Lake Arapuni Rd near Putaruru during the Targa Rotorua rally yesterday morning.

The 41-year-old suffered severe leg injuries, while his brother and co-driver, Bret Scoular, 34, escaped with lesser injuries.

Waikato Hospital orthopaedic surgeon Chris O'Meeghan today confirmed Mr Scoular's right leg had to be amputated below the knee before he underwent four hours of surgery yesterday.


He was now in intensive care, where he was conscious and talking to family, Mr O'Meeghan said.

"He's come through remarkably well.

"The hospital pre planning for traumas like this worked very well. The trauma team was ready and waiting as soon as Stuart got here."

Mr Scoular's left leg and hip are broken, as is his right thigh, Mr O'Meeghan said.

Bret Scoular was treated in the Waikato Hospital emergency department last night and discharged.

The brothers, Sydney-based Kiwis, were placed sixth overall as they set out for the first stage of the event's second day.

In closed special stages, rally cars are allowed to reach speeds of up to 200km/h, but must maintain an average speed no faster than 140km/h.

Motorsport New Zealand chairman Brian Budd said drivers must also adhere to other rules and regulations, and stewards were investigating whether the crash was a result of driver error.

It was not known at what speed the car was travelling.

Ian Bayes, who was standing only 40m away when the car slammed into the stock underpass on his farm, said the brothers rounded a corner too fast.

"There's a bit of a hump and it's hard to see around the bend to see how tight it is," he said.

"He held it straight and didn't go into a slide but just couldn't slow up, he was going too fast. He slowly came off the road and came pretty close to bringing it back up, but his front wheel hit the underpass abutment and took all the railing off."

The vehicle made a "hell of a bang" as it slammed into the two-tonne abutment with such force that it dislodged the concrete block from its mounting.

Mr Bayes immediately thought both men must have been killed instantly.

"It stopped so quick from going so fast. They're lucky to get away with their lives, especially the driver, who was on the side that hit the parapet.

"The tubing around the driver was all right, but there was no tubular framing beneath him and there was no chassis in the car ... it just opened up like a can.

"There was a loud crash, bang, and smoke for a start. I was worried the thing was going to catch fire, but the following cars all carried extinguishers.

"By the time I came back out after ringing 111 they had it all under control."

Race organisers were last night in contact with Stuart Scoular's family, who asked that no information on his condition be released.

Mr Budd said such serious crashes did not happen often.

"There are rules and regulations [on] the running of the event and the cars to reduce the risks, but they are running on public roads at a reasonably high speed so it's not a sport that's immune from these sorts of incidents," he said.

"This is getting toward the upper end of the scale, but they do happen."