World champion Ott Tanak crashed out of the Monte Carlo Rally on Friday when he flew off the road on a mountainside in the Alps in the fourth stage.
The Estonian and his co-driver and compatriot Martin Jarveoja escaped unharmed but their Hyundai was badly damaged.
Tanak went off the road at high speed. The car’s nose dipped and hit the ground bouncing the vehicle into the air. It spun through a tree before landing on the mountain side. The two Estonians quickly climbed out of the car unscathed.
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“They’re fine,” said Hyundai team manager Andrea Adamo.
“I don’t know what happened. You saw what I saw, I’m waiting for him to come back but I was mostly concerned about his physical health.”
Tanak, 32, has never won the Monte Carlo Rally. He was in fourth place overall when he crashed.
His teammate Thierry Neuville was leading going into the stage from Saint-Clement-sur-Durance to Freissinieres but finished third, ceding the overall lead to Welshman Elfyn Evans in a Toyota who also won Friday’s opening stage.
“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.”
Frenchman Sebastian Ogier, in a Toyota, was second on the stage and is third overall, 5.5 sec behind Evans and 2.1 sec behind Neuville.
“I hope Ott is okay,” Ogier said.
“It was a very fast section where he went off with a big compression.”
The temperature was below freezing overnight and while there is not a lot of snow on the roads, patches of ice have made the route difficult since the start on Thursday evening.
Several drivers have already been forced to retire after going off the road, including Britain’s Gus Greensmith (M-Sport Ford).