M-Sport's Ott Tanak says his Fiesta RS WRC sank in “just a few seconds” after he went off the road this morning in SS3 of Rally Mexico.
The dramatic incident occurred in the opening test of the day, the 9.91 km Los Mexicanos test, when the Estonian damaged the front-right suspension around 3km in and ended up in a reservoir.
Tanak and co-driver Ragio Molder both escaped unharmed, but were shaken by what had happened.
“It was a different experience today,” Tanak recounted. “I braked too hard into a compression which damaged the front-right suspension. We couldn't steer the car around the next left-hand corner and went off the edge of the road. The drop was so steep that we rolled into the water.
“Luckily the car landed on its wheels but the water was so deep that the car sank really fast. As soon as we opened the doors the car was gone in just a few seconds. I also had a problem with my intercom wire because it didn't come loose and was dragging me under the water. We were really lucky.
“It was not a nice moment to have.”
Tanak also revealed that the team had an anxious wait after the off.
“After there was no chance to contact the team,” Tanak explained. “The radio was gone and there was very little phone signal where we were.
“No one back at the team knew what had happened to us for almost 20 minutes and that – as you can imagine – was a big concern for everyone back in the service park.”
M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson meanwhile said the team is relieved that Tanak and Molder are both fine.
“The most important thing is that the boys are okay,” Wilson told the official WRC site. “They are shaken and a bit damp. We have sent them back to the hotel to get themselves sorted out.
“There is 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.”
Tanak has since confirmed he hopes to re-start
under Rally 2 on Saturday.