PHOTO: The Ford Fiesta RS of Ott Tänak and Raigo Mõlder plunges off the road and toward the lake on Rally Guanajuato Mexico. More photos in the sequence below (all pics exclusively by WRC.com)
VIDEO: To see video of the crash on the WRC’s YouTube channel, CLICK HERE.
ESTONIAN rally star Ott Tänak and co-driver Raigo Mõlder have escaped unhurt from a terrifying crash when their car plunged into a lake and sank at Rally Guanajuato Mexico on Friday morning.
Tänak said he fought for his life as pair wriggled out of their Ford Fiesta RS seconds before it disappeared beneath the surface.
WRC.com reported the crash happened less than three kilometres into Friday morning’s opening Los Mexicanos test in the mountains near Guanajuato, where the rally started on Thursday night.
The M-Sport World Rally Team car rolled down a bank and landed in the water the right way up. In less than 10 seconds Tänak and Mõlder were out of the car, which disappeared to the bottom of the lake in just 25 seconds.
Tänak and Mölder returned to the rally base at León and were recovering at their hotel.
Divers have been sent to locate the car, but the water is so deep and dirty they have not yet found it. If the car is retrieved in time and runs properly, the Estonians are keen to restart on Saturday under Rally 2 rules.
Tänak said he was fighting for his life in the lake.
“If you are in a lake, close to the limit of your life and fighting for it, when you finally win that fight it’s an amazing feeling,” the 27-year-old said.
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“I opened the seat belts and immediately after opening the door the car filled with water.
“Then it went down in a short time.
“It was a bit scary when I got out the car. The intercom wire was still fixed and it was difficult to unplug, so it was dragging me under the water. That was a **** feeling but luckily I had enough force to unplug it. A few seconds later the car was gone.”
Tänak said he didn’t have time to think about what was happening as he battled to escape.
“I didn’t care how hard it was, I just had to get out. It was really on the limit. We were alone. There were spectators, but they were far too far away and couldn’t help.
“When we started to swim to the edge, we had to swim 5-6 metres. It was quite a bit of work with helmets on. I’m not sure if I’m a good swimmer, but I survived so I’m good enough.”
Tänak blamed himself for the accident after braking as the Fiesta RS hit a compression in the gravel road.
“It was a downhill braking in the compression and something broke in the front right. The wheel was turning out and it dragged us to the edge of the road.
“When I saw the water and we rolled I told Raigo we had to move fast but that was all. I shouted that to him just before we went into the water.”
Malcolm Wilson, team director at Tänak’s M-Sport squad, said details of the accident were still unclear.
“The most important thing is that the boys are okay,” he told WRC Live.
“They are shaken and a bit damp. We’ve sent them back to the hotel to get themselves sorted out. For now they are too shocked to talk about what happened.”
Wilson admitted he feared for the lives of the duo.
“There’s a huge sense of relief in the team. Nobody in the team really knew what had happened.
“Organisers sent a helicopter to try to find them, but they couldn’t be seen. By then we had studied the tracking system and could see the reservoir beside where they went off, so you start to fear the worst.
“I suppose the next thing is to try and retrieve the car. It is not visible, so that gives you an indication of how deep it is there.”