The Estonian and co-driver Raigo Mõlder escaped unhurt but shocked after wriggling out of their Ford Fiesta RS seconds before it disappeared beneath the surface.
“If you are in a lake, close to the limit of your life and fighting for it, when you finally win that fight it’s an amazing feeling,” said 27-year-old Tänak.
The M-Sport World Rally Team car rolled down a bank and into the water, coming to rest on the surface and the right way up. In less than 10 seconds Tänak and Mõlder were out of the car, which disappeared to the bottom of the lake in just 25 seconds.
“I opened the seat belts and immediately after opening the door the car filled with water,” he explained. “Then it went down in a short time.
“It was a bit scary when I got out the car. The intercom wire was still fixed and it was difficult to unplug, so it was dragging me under the water. That was a **** feeling but luckily I had enough force to unplug it. A few seconds later the car was gone,” he said.
Tänak admits he didn’t have time to think about what was happening as he battled to escape.
“I didn’t care how hard it was, I just had to get out. It was really on the limit. We were alone. There were spectators but they were far too far away and couldn’t help.
“When we started to swim to the edge, we had to swim 5-6 metres. It was quite a bit of work with helmets on. I’m not sure if I’m a good swimmer, but I survived so I’m good enough.
Tänak blamed himself for the accident after braking as the Fiesta RS hit a compression in the gravel road.
“It was a downhill braking in the compression and something broke in the front right. The wheel was turning out and it dragged us to the edge of the road.
“When I saw the water and we rolled I told Raigo we had to move fast but that was all. I shouted that to him just before we went into the water,” said Tänak.
Divers have been sent to the scene to locate the car but the water is so deep and dirty they have not yet found it. If the car is retrieved in time and runs properly, then the Estonians are keen to restart tomorrow under Rally 2 rules.