Makinen takes the reins in Africa

Tommi Makinen is poised to take a dominant win on the Safari Rally after heading into the final leg of the event with a six-minute overnight lead. However the Finn cannot count on extending his World Rally Championship lead just yet as he has a gruelling repeat of the first leg to negotiate before he his home and dry

Makinen takes the reins in Africa

Makinen is tied for the lead of the drivers' championship with rival Colin McRae on 30 points. But with the Scotsman having retired on Friday and his team mate Carlos Sainz, who is Makinen's next closest rival, going the same way this morning (Saturday), the Mitsubishi star could not ask to be in a better position.

What is more the Flying Finn is more than six minutes clear of second-placed Harri Rovanpera.

Sainz's demise was brought about buy engine failure for the second event in succession and the Spaniard's retirement means Ford will not score points for the first time this season. The Blue Oval will still lead the series after this event, but Mitsubishi has a golden opportunity to slash the gap.

The only chink in Makinen's armour was a prop shaft problem on the penultimate stage of the day, but the four-time world champion was still third fastest and the fault was quickly rectified.

"Some of the roads have been very wet, but I am very happy that things are going well for us," said Makinen. "The problem with the prop-shaft was very worrying because I thought we could be out of the rally, but fortunately we got to the end of the section and the team changed the part in service. I went a bit faster on the final section because I knew the road was very smooth and I wanted a bigger advantage for tomorrow."

Big advantage or not, the Mitsubishi ace will need to be extra cautious tomorrow as the final leg's route takes the teams back along the same sections as the gruelling first day, which claimed 15 retirements, including McRae and fellow title aspirant Richard Burns.

Behind Makinen, Harri Rovanpera is again proving that he is Peugeot's lucky charm, for while Didier Auriol and Marcus Gronholm were victims of yesterday's destructive opening leg, the Finn is trailing Makinen and perfectly poised to strike if the leader hits trouble. Norway's Petter Solberg was also close on his heels, but suspension niggles on today's final stage have added more precious seconds to his challenge.

For full results table click here.

shares
comments
I could have won, says Sainz

Previous article

I could have won, says Sainz

Next article

Loix struggles, Solberg out

Loix struggles, Solberg out
Load comments
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Plus

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021
The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0 Plus

The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0

Two decades after Petter Solberg emerged as a World Rally Championship winner, his son Oliver is ready to take the WRC by storm. Having secured a part-time WRC factory drive for Hyundai in 2022, he's raring to repay the marque's faith in him and follow in his 2003 champion father's footsteps

WRC
Oct 14, 2021
Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season Plus

Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season

The World Rally Championship will step into a new hybrid era in 2022, but the car changes haven't been the only excitement that has built within the paddock. WRC's 'silly season' kicked off in a big way and all the key driver moves for 2022 - of which there are many - look set to shake things up

WRC
Oct 13, 2021
How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age Plus

How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age

By his own admission, the fifth World Rally Championship victory of Elfyn Evans' career in Finland last weekend was the drive of his life. Winning five stages in a row and soaking up huge pressure from the Hyundais on the fastest gravel stages around, the Welshman put in a faultless showing that proved what he is truly made of

WRC
Oct 4, 2021
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021