Burns wins race, Makinen world title

Englishman Richard Burns won the race but Finland's Tommi Makinen the 1999 world championship honors on the final day of Rally Australia in Perth on Sunday.

Englishman Richard Burns won the race but Finland's Tommi Makinen the 1999 world championship honors on the final day of Rally Australia in Perth on Sunday.

Burns extended his overnight lead to win the fourth rally of his career while Makinen's third placing guaranteed him an unprecedented fourth successive world championship.

Driving a Subaru Impreza, Burns led by just 4.4 seconds going into the last day and eventually won by 11.6 seconds from Spain's Carlos Sainz, in a Toyota Corolla.

Makinen drove his Mitsubishi Lancer conservatively over the last two days, aware he had only to finish in the top three rally to clinch the championship. He finished more than four minutes behind Sainz, with Belgium's Freddy Loix almost three minutes further back in fourth.

In a rally that took a high toll on both cars and drivers, the 28-year-old winner completed the 23 stages and 395.8 kilometers (244.3 miles) in 3 hours, 44 minutes, 43.1 seconds.

Happy to finally win in Perth at his sixth attempt, Burns, who first got behind the wheel of a car at the age of eight, said he enjoyed his struggle with Sainz over the last two days.

"It was a great battle with Carlos," he said. "I had to take a few risks on the second-last stage to get some time difference out of him."

Makinen's title chances were strong following the early retirements of his only championship rivals, France's Didier Auriol and Finland's Juha Kankkunen.

A costly puncture on the second day dropped the world championship leader back to fourth, but the retirement of Scotsman Colin McRae, who was third before he hit a tree on the first stage of the third day, promoted him into the top three and virtually handed him the title.

Makinen, who started his racing career on tractors, now has 62 championship points, with Auriol on 52 and Burns 45.

Auriol could draw level on points with Makinen if he won the season-ending Rally of Great Britain and Makinen failed to finish in the top six. But the Finn would still take the championship because he has won more events this year.

"It all feels very good," Makinen said after the final stage. "Four years in a row is going to be difficult to beat.

"I'm glad I've done it here, now I can go to the RAC (Rally of Great Britain) and try to win - I've never won there."

Sainz, who announced this week he be would driving with Ford next year, sealed the manufacturers' championship for Toyota with his second placing.

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