Rallying: Makinen takes the honours

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The Independent Online
Tommi Makinen, the world champion, yesterday won the Portuguese Rally to take the lead in the drivers' championship. Makinen, in a Mitsubishi, finished 4min 5sec clear of the Belgian, Freddy Loix, driving a Toyota. Armin Schwarz, of Germany, was third in a Ford.

The Finnish driver now leads the World Championship with 18 points, followed by Colin McRae on 13 and Spain's Carlos Sainz on 12. Makinen's victory for Mitsubishi, his first of the season, brought an end to Subaru's early domination of the 1997 championship.

Makinen took the lead during the 18th stage following a spirited drive on the second day, during which he set the fastest time on every stage. McRae, in a Subaru, was dominant until the sixth stage when his engine cut out, just one stage after Sainz had retired with gearbox problems in his Ford.

That left the battle for the lead between the Swede, Kenneth Eriksson, and Makinen for the remainder of the first day. The Swede pulled ahead to end the first leg 14 seconds clear. On the second day Makinen closed the gap, before taking the lead on the 18th stage. He then pulled clear when Eriksson was forced out with engine problems on the final stage of the second leg.

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