Gronholm benefits as Makinen is stripped of victory

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The Independent Online

The world champion, Tommi Makinen, has been stripped of victory in the Rally of Australia after the turbocharger on his Mitsubishi failed a post-race technical examination, FIA, motor sport's world governing body, said yesterday.

The world champion, Tommi Makinen, has been stripped of victory in the Rally of Australia after the turbocharger on his Mitsubishi failed a post-race technical examination, FIA, motor sport's world governing body, said yesterday.

Makinen was disqualified after his turbocharger was found not to conform with the tight specifications in the rule-book after he had finished first ahead of his fellow Finn Marcus Gronholm on Sunday.

After a day of suspense and conjecture, Gronholm was handed an unexpected fourth win of the season, leaving him nine points ahead in the drivers' title race with only one event remaining, the British Rally in Cardiff later this month. "I'm ecstatic at this result as the battle between Richard Burns and me was so close on the final stage," Gronholm said. "I now know what I need to do in Cardiff in two weeks but it will be very difficult. It is now in my hands."

Burns is now the only driver who can catch Gronholm. He needs to win his home event and hope that the Finn fails to score to lift the title, but the British driver is playing down his chances. "The decision to exclude Tommi has made it even harder for me but I am still confident I will win in Cardiff," he said. "If Marcus produces the same kind of form and has the same look and similar reliability that he has had all season then I don't have much chance because for sure he will be in the top six in Great Britain."

WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP: Amended positions after disqualification from Rally Australia of Tommi Makinen: Rally Australia result: 1 M Gronholm (Fin) Peugeot 3hr 43min 57.2sec; 2 R Burns (GB) Subaru 3:43:59.9; 3 F Delecour (Fr) Peugeot 3:45:30.1; 4 K Eriksson (Swe) Hyundai 3:46:17.8. Drivers' championship: 1 M Gronholm (Fin) 59 points; 2 R Burns (GB) 50; 3= C McRae (GB) and C Sainz (Sp) 43; 5 T Makinen (Fin) 32; 6 G Panizzi (Fr) 21. Manufacturers' championship: 1 Peugeot 104 pts; 2 Ford 88; 3 Subaru 76; 4 Mitsubishi 39; 5 SEAT 9; 6 Skoda 8; 7 Hyundai 8.

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