Rounding a treacherous corner known as Devil’s Playground in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado on Sunday, driver Jeremy Foley lost control of his race car as it went flying off the side of a steep cliff.
Foley and his driving partner, Yuri Kouznetsov, were helpless as the 500-horsepower Mitsubishi Evolution 8 somersaulted more than a dozen times on its way down the mountain. The scene was captured in a hair-raising video taken by a camera mounted inside the car and by a spectator, who posted the clip to YouTube. The duo survived with relatively minor injuries.
Kouznetsov and Foley spoke with Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Thursday about the moment they lost control as nearby spectators gasped in horror. In the 90-year history of America’s second-oldest auto race up the 14,115-foot mountain in the Rockies, only two drivers have died competing.Story: Lone survivor recalls one of worst US plane crashes
“A lot went through my mind,’’ Foley told Guthrie. “My first thought careening off the cliff was, ‘This is it. This was game over.’’’
“The last few moments is pretty much a lot of what you remember,’’ Kouznetsov said. “Then it’s pretty much a big washing machine of pain and violence, and then just coming back to it in a daze.’’
When the car finally lurched to a rest, the only significant injury was Kouznetsov’s dislocated shoulder, which he had in a sling during the interview with Guthrie.
“I’m feeling good, surprisingly,’’ he said. “You saw the wreck. I’m really just glad to come out with just this and a couple bruises.”
Foley remained conscious during the entire ordeal, absorbing every impact. Kouznetsov briefly lost consciousness.Story: Lauren Scruggs: 'I've learned to live by faith'
“I remember everything to the point where we actually landed backwards in the car in that rut that actually thankfully slowed us down,’’ Kouznetsov said. “The moment where I dislocated my shoulder, I felt that, and pulled my arms in, grabbed the belts and tried to ride it out. The thing that goes through your head is just ‘Please stop, please stop.’’’
Foley has been driving race cars for eight years, but this was his first time in the Pikes Peak event, which requires drivers to navigate 156 turns up the mountain in less than 10 minutes. In last year’s race, a car went over the side at the Devil’s Playground turn at mile 16.
“There was a moment where the tires did not grip, and you can even hear it in the audio where they start to squeal,’’ Foley said. “As a race car driver, you know that feeling and sensation that the car’s not doing what you want it to do.’’
As the car flipped, Foley felt remorse for putting Kouznetsov in danger.
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“That was my first concern,’’ Foley said. “His life was a responsibility of mine, and I felt extremely guilty and saddened to know I may have caused him some harm.’’
Foley said he's not a religious man, but he appealed to a higher power as they hurtled down the mountain.
“I prayed before the race, and I prayed during the ordeal that it would come to a halt,’’ Foley said.
The Mitsubishi was equipped with a roll cage that the two men credit along with their helmets for helping to save their lives. Kouznetsov’s white helmet, streaked and cracked, was on display during the interview with Guthrie.
“The helmet here was worn by Yuri and you can see there are multiple cracks on the helmet, indicating he had suffered some severe impacts,’’ Foley said. “Luckily my helmet was less marked up, but it shows that those safety devices did keep us both alive.’’
The two now have a permanent reminder of the harrowing moment, thanks to the video footage, but both plan on getting back in a race car.
“It’s definitely difficult because of the video,’’ Foley said. “It’s never enjoyable (to watch). I think we both want to get back in the car. We’re both probably a little hesitant to do it tomorrow, but with time, we’ll both certainly be racing in the future.’’
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