Rally Crew Missing For 17 Minutes After Driver Crashes Into Lake

Rally Mexico has not gotten off to a good start. Ford's WRC team lost contact for 17 minutes with their crew after Estonian driver Ott Tänak rolled off the road into a lake.


These pictures are only just arriving on the web from the WRC's photographer @World.

Tänak and his co-driver did indeed make it out of the car before it became submerged.

Illustration for article titled Rally Crew Missing For 17 Minutes After Driver Crashes Into Lake

It's hard to parse together the full details of the crash, as the stage wasn't immediately closed, which should be standard procedure for a rally like this. Particularly worrying is that Ott didn't make contact with his M-Sport team for a significant amount of time.

Even when they were driven back to safety by another car, they were "too shocked to talk about what happened," Tänak's team boss at M-Sport Malcolm Wilson told WRC reporters.


The 17 minutes figure comes from these tweets.


Obviously Tänak was not underwater that time, but WRC officials and his team didn't know where he was or if he was ok for 17 minutes, which is terrifying.


It appears that the WRC's TV crew found the drivers before any other officials.


Things seemed particularly grim in this period, as Malcolm Wilson stated.

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.


The WRC's live ticker only gave out only this statement at first.

FRI 10:29 - SS4: M-SPORT TEAMhave just broadcast a radio message to their drivers confirming that Ott Tanak and his co-driver Raigo Molder are okay. They added they have no idea where the car is.


No idea where the car is, huh. Not great.

Molder apparently managed to keep his pace notes intact and the team will attempt to continue the rally tomorrow.


That is so impossibly stoic I can't even handle it.


Regardless of the Tänak and Molder's righteousness, this is a very poor mark on the WRC's safety record.

UPDATE: M-Sport released this statement on the crash from Tänak himself, who describes how he was being pulled under water from his intercom, attached to his helmet. There is a further explanation how, without reception, he could not get in touch with officials or the team. He is lucky to be alive.

"It was a different experience today. 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.

"After that there was no chance to contact the team. 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.

"I've never had this type of feeling before. It's an empty feeling but the best thing is to get back in the car. The team are trying to get the car back as soon as possible and they are ready to fight all night to repair it ready for tomorrow. It sounds like a crazy plan, but if there is any chance to restart the rally I know my team can make it happen."


We now have video of the off, thanks to a fan, uploaded by the WRC.


(Hat tip to Eric Rood)

Photo Credits: WRC/@World, WRC (updated graphic at the top of the post)

Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.


Justin Hughes

This, right here, is EXACTLY why we have ham radio operators stationed at numerous points along each stage, tracking the progress of competitors. Worst case, you at least know which radios they passed and which they didn't, narrowing the search area down significantly from a great big "uh, I dunno..."