Ott Tanak has endured a nightmare start to the defence of his World Rally Championship crown after suffering a huge off at Rallye Monte Carlo.

The Estonian driver came off 9.2 kilometres into the 20.68km fourth stage of the 2020 WRC opener after drifting off the road and down a steep verge which sent him and co-driver Martin Jarveoja into a violent crash which saw them tumble a hill before stopping on the road below.

Onboard replays showed Tanak dropping his front-right wheel on to an icy grass verge going into a small chicane which unsettled his Hyundai before tumbling off the road at around 180km/h.

Both Tanak and Jarveoja were reported as okay by officials after the crash but, unsurprisingly, have retired from the running at Rallye Monte Carlo. The pair have been sent to hospital for precautionary checks as standard procedure following a heavy crash.

It marks a disaster start to Tanak’s WRC title defence in 2020 having lifted the world championship last year with Toyota Gazoo Racing before moving to Hyundai this winter.

Tanak has previously finished on the podium at the last three consecutive Rallye Monte Carlo events.

At the end of stage four, St-Clement-sur-Durance – Freissinieres 1, Toyota’s Elfyn Evans leads by 3.4 seconds from Tanka’s Hyundai teammate Thierry Neuville with Sebastien Ogier in third place a further 2.1 seconds behind.

In a statement released by Hyundai, the team confirmed both driver and co-driver were able to exit the car on their own after the accident and have been taken to hospital to be kept in overnight as a precaution.