GAP: World champion Ott Tanak and his co-driver escaped unscathed on Friday after their Hyundai somersaulted off an Alpine road at high speed before plunging 100m down a hillside in the Monte Carlo Rally.
Tanak, in his first rally for his new team, flew off an icy road on the fourth stage between Saint-Clement and Freissinieres.
The car´s nose dipped and hit the ground, bouncing the vehicle into the air. It spun through a tree before landing at the foot of a hill.
The two Estonians miraculously climbed out of the car unscathed.
“It wasn´t the start of the season that we were looking for, but fortunately we are both OK thanks to the safety equipment. We will fight back soon,” tweeted Tanak.
After the two stages on Thursday evening, Tanak had complained about black ice and said: “I am happy to be alive!”
“Precautionary medical checks have confirmed that Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja are fine following their crash,” the team said in a statement after the pair had been checked over in hospital where they were due to remain overnight.
“But the Estonians will take no further part in the rally,” it added.
Tanak, 32, has never won the Monte Carlo Rally. He was in fourth place overall when he crashed.
“I don´t know what happened,” said Hyundai team manager Andrea Adamo after the stage. “You saw what I saw, I´m waiting for him to come back but I was mostly concerned about his physical health.”
“Our priority in such situations is always the condition of the crew first and foremost,” Adamo later said.
“It is customary after such incidents for hospital check-ups, the results of which were clear. They will remain there for monitoring overnight, which is again routine procedure.”
Tanak´s new team-mate Thierry Neuville was leading going into the stage but finished third.
“I was slowed down so much in that section,” Neuville, a Belgian, said. “I knew there was something when I saw Ott´s lines, so I lost quite a lot of time.”
Tanak is no stranger to dramatic crashes. At the 2015 Rally of Mexico, his Ford plunged into a lake and sank to the bottom leaving him and his co-driver having to swim to safety.
Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, in a Toyota, finished second in the stage in which Tanak crashed before eventually taking the overnight lead.
“I hope Ott is okay,” the six-time former champion said. “It was a very fast section where he went off with a big compression.”
Overnight temperature was below freezing and while there is not a lot of snow on the roads, there were still the patches of ice that had made the route difficult since the start the previous day.
Seven-time Monte Carlo winner Ogier, who switched to Toyota after Citroen pulled out of the championship at the end of last season, ended the first full day with a 1.2-sec lead over Welsh teammate Elfyn Evans.
Overnight leader Neuville, in another Hyundai, was 6.4 sec off the lead.