World Championship, leader Makinen and fellow Finn Seppo Harjanne have completely outclassed their opponents in torrential rain, despite having to run first on the roed in treacherously slippery conditions, as bad as any rally outside the tropics.
Makinen will be World Champion (subject to FIA confirmation) if positions remain the same during the third and final leg of the 1,560-kilomatre event, and his championship rivals,Kenneth Eriksson and Carlos Sainz,admit they have no answer to the brilliant Finn.
"I don't know why the others are not quicker. I have been driving safely - just smoothly and nicely, letting the car slide. The car has been no problem at all,"said Makinen.
As usual, his Mitsubishi has run perfectly and Michelin Z80 tyres have proved ideal, no matter how bad the conditions, It rained so heavily that times on the spectator stage at Langley Park in Perth, which covers just over two kilometres, were 20 seconds slower than the day before! Makinen thrashed Sainz's Ford by nine seconds in their personal duel.
Team Petronas Mitsubishi Ralliart colleague Richard Burns was one of four drivers to stop in a deep river crossing on the 14th stage, but the tough Lancer Evolution III ran perfectly for the rest of the day, despite flooded by fast-flowing water that was 60 centimatres deep.
"It's been incredibly slippery and we've had to make liberal use of the handbrake because it's been so slippery, but the car's been fantastic,"the British driver reported.
"Tommi has just cruised around. The cars have both run faultlessly and Tommi seems to be in total control. We've faced the worst conditions we've ever seen in Australia, but both drivers have coped well and everything's going according to plan : Tommi doesn't like losing rallies," said Team Petronas Mitsubishi Ralliart's Director,Andrew Cowan.
Uwe Nittel of Germany contineues to lead Group N in his Ralliart Germany Lancer Evolution III,despite never having contcsred the rally before. Uruguayan Gustavo Trelles completed the second leg just four seconds behind and Lancer Evolution IIIs hold the top four places in the group.
"I'm rally happy tobe leading, because this rally is so difficult - especially in such bad weather,"he said.
Just one more day and 111 kilometres divided into 8 stage stand between Makinen, Mitsubishi and the world title. Completely relaxed despite warnings of more strong winds and heavy rain, Makinen has total confidence in his pace-setting Lancer Evolution III.
|1.T. MAKINEN/S. HARJANNE||FIN/FIN||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||3.03.00||2. K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER||S/S||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+1.22|
|3.C. SAINZ/L. MOYA||E/E||FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH||+1.53|
|4. C. McRAE/D. RINGER||GB/GB||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+2.47|
|5. R. BURNS/R. REID||GB/GB||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||+3.09|
|6. B. THIRY/S. PREVOT||B/B||FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH||+5.48|
|7. P. LIATTI/F. PON||I/I||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+8.50|
|8. P. BOURNE/C. VINCENT||NZ/NZ||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+9.31|
|9. U.NITTEL/T.THORNER||D/S||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||+19.31(1st Group N)|
|10. G.TRELLES/J>DEL BUONO||U/RA||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||+19.36|