Brilliant driving on wet, sometimes icy, conditions in the Vercors mountains enabled the Finn to take first place from the overnight leader, Carlos Sainz of Spain. After four of the penultimate day's six timed stages, Makinen, in a Mitsubishi Lancer, was 13 seconds ahead of Sainz's Ford Escort.
McRae, who had dropped to fourth place overall after hitting a snowdrift on Monday, went off the road again in yesterday's 33-kilometre first stage from St Jean en Royans to La Chapelle en Vercors. Britain's 1995 world champion broke the rear left suspension and damaged the steering of his Subaru Impreza. He finished the stage but was more than 24 minutes behind his team-mate, Piero Liatti of Italy, who recorded the best time.
"We hit a patch of ice on my side and went off into the snowbank," McRae said. "We lost of a lot of time to get the car out. We managed to finish the stage but the front left steering arm was broken and it was impossible to continue."