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This Bonkers Rally Accident Shows How Safe Race Cars Can Be

The car's trip off the road, into the air, through a tree, and down a rocky mountainside is heartstopping.

The Hyundai i20 rally car appears to understeer just slightly coming out of a gentle lefthand bend in the road, enough to place its two right tires into the ditch at a reported 115 mph. Physics takes over from there: The car is seemingly yanked to its right, down the short embankment, where it catches on something and begins tumbling end-over-end through a narrow field. Mid-air, the vehicle strikes the bendy top half of a coniferous tree at the end of the field and … disappears.

Its horrific journey is only half over. After being nearly caught in the tree like a baseball in a mitt, the Hyundai i20 race car competing in the 2020 Monte Carlo rally plummets to a craggy hilltop—pauses, briefly—and then lurches and bounces down a rocky mountainside to a different paved road about 100 feet below. Driver Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja make it out of the car, which has come to rest nearly unrecognizable, just fine.

While video of the incident is hard to watch—we've embedded a clip of the crash here—it's probably less noteworthy to those in the racing community. Modern race cars are simply marvels of safety engineering. Look at the Hyundai i20 WRC car, post-crash: Sure, its four wheels are barely clinging to the chassis, and its nose and tail have been reduced to crumpled cavities. But the passenger cell surrounding the driver and co-driver is intact. We imagine the multipoint harnesses, the occupants' neck-saving HANS devices, and helmets all played a role in avoiding fatal or injurious consequences. Credit also goes to the car's roll cage, which clearly had to deal with many, many rolls here. We should probably also thank the tree, which seemed to do its part slowing the Hyundai down.

For those curious, this is what Tanak's car looked like before the crash: