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RALLYING: Burns exploits Makinen's slip

BRITAIN'S Richard Burns made a promising start to the defence of his Safari Rally title in Kenya yesterday as Tommi Makinen, the world champion, suffered a double setback.

Burns clocked the second-fastest time on the opening special stage behind Juha Kankkunen from Finland, his Subaru team-mate, although the real action does not begin until today. Scotland's Colin McRae was fourth fastest despite suffering with a broken thumb while Spain's Carlos Sainz was third quickest with Makinen back in 12th place.

Makinen, aiming for a sixth victory in the last seven rallies, finished four seconds off the lead over the one and a half mile section in Nairobi's Jamhuri Park. The Finn had also earlier been fined around pounds 6,000 following a collision with a Subaru car during the pre-event race last week.

However, despite those setbacks, Makinen is still favourite to win the rally when the action resumes this morning on the dusty, pot-holed roads of East Africa. The competitors face 600 miles against the clock until the rally's completion on Sunday.

Makinen, who leads Kankkunen and France's Didier Auriol by 13 points after winning the first two rallies of the season, was well beaten by his fellow Finn yesterday after struggling with tyre grip.

Burns, whose victory in Kenya last season was his maiden championship triumph, is confident of repeating that success following his switch from Mitsubishi, saying: "I know I'm in very good company as all the top drivers are candidates to win. But I'm not intimidated and I know I can do it."