Makinen wins Safari Rally


Finland’s Tommi Makinen won the Safari Rally here Sunday to take the outright lead in the world rally championship. Former world champion Makinen, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, finished 12min 37sec ahead of compatriot Harri Rovanpera in a Peugeot, with Germany’s Skoda driver Armin Schwarz third. Makinen put himself on the way to victory after winning the opening special of the day, the 117-kilometre Oltopesi section, ahead of Rovanpera. Heavy cloud disrupted early racing, with safety helicopters grounded.

The weather forced the cancellation of the 12th special.

That left the 71.83km, 13th stage as the final special. Frenchman Francois Delecour won the special, but Makinen wrapped up outright victory after finishing five minutes clear of nearest rival Rovanpera. Makinen finished with an overall time of 8hrs 58min 37sec, comfortably ahead of Rovanpera on 901.14.

Schwarz was a further five minutes back on 906.52, but was delighted with a podium finish in what was Skoda’s best ever showing in a world championship event. Makinen’s win gives him a 10-point lead at the top of the world championship standings after eight races. His nearest rival in the standings, Britains Colin McRae, retired on the first day. The next leg of the world championship is the Rally of Finland on August 23.