Tue 07 Mar 2023

The remarkable story of Titänak

At Guanajuato Rally México in 2015, Ott Tänak’s M-Sport Ford team defied all expectations by salvaging the Estonian’s car after it rolled into a reservoir. This is the story of Titänak.

Just 2.6km into Friday’s opening Los Mexicanos stage, Tänak’s Fiesta RS WRC left the road, rolling down a banking before plunging into a five-metre-deep reservoir.

When Hayden Paddon, next on the road, arrived at the stage end having seen no sign of Tänak’s stricken steed, a rapid intervention vehicle was quickly dispatched. It was soon confirmed that both Tänak and then co-driver Raigo Mölder were unharmed, but the car was submerged deep underwater.

The recovery
Tänak and Mölder were flown back to service by helicopter to undergo routine checks before the latter began the lengthy process of drying his pace notes page by page.

Later in the day, nine hours after the initial incident, the stage was closed and a recovery team was sent to extract the Fiesta from the reservoir. It was loaded onto a recovery truck and brought back to the service park, where M-Sport Ford’s mechanics started assessing the damage.

Time to get to work
Despite the extensive damage, the team decided to take on the mammoth task of repairing the car in the hope that Tänak would be able to restart on Saturday morning. They had just three hours to do so.

The mechanics sprang into action, stripping the Fiesta down to almost a bare shell within the first 25 minutes whilst removing the standing water from inside the cockpit. The engine had to be drained of excess water, and repairs were even required to the engine block.

Amazingly, with two hours to go, the reassembly had started. Almost every part which had been removed, except for the seats, belts, bonnet, and toolkit, was replaced as new.

One hour before the deadline, technicians cranked the engine for oil pressure, and finally, with 25 minutes to spare, the car roared back into life. After a few final checks - and even a quick polish - Tänak and Mölder drove the car to parc fermé.

More drama
The drama continued when Tänak went to collect the Fiesta from parc fermé on Saturday morning, and the engine kept cutting out. It was pushed back into service where the team replaced the coils and spark plugs to get it running again. However, shortly afterwards at refuel, the car cut out again, and Tänak was deemed OTL.

Back in service, M-Sport mechanics replaced the oil and fuel pressure sensors, engine loom, and ECU. Finally, the car was ready to restart on Sunday.

Mission accomplished
On Sunday, Titänak was almost two hours behind and lay twenty-second overall, but the Ford did make it across the finish line. Wearing diving goggles, he and Mölder waved cheerfully from the ramp, thus celebrating one of the most remarkable and unlikely rally finishes of all time.

The incredible story of Tanak’s crash, escape, and subsequent return was covered by news organisations around the world, making headlines in print and online from Europe and the USA to New Zealand and Thailand.

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