Makinen and co-driver Seppo Harjanne have enjoyed a trouble-free day in their Lancer Evolution III and have done well to reach second place in conditions that have penalised the first car on the road. Unusually dry, warm weather has left a covering of loose surface gravel that has cost the Finn grip and traction.
"These are quite abnormal conditions for the 1000 Lakes. Normally it is better to be first on the road. I think tomorrow there are a lot of stages that are good for our car. I am not worried, because there are two days left," said Makinen confidently.
As ever, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart has had strong support from the French tyres manufacturer Michelin, which has coped well with much higher temperatures than are usual for the 1000 Lakes. Makinen set the pace towards the end of the leg, relying on the new Z90 tyres.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart also stands a good chance of improving its position in the World Championship for Manufacturers thanks to veteran Finns Lasse Lampi and Jyrki Stenroos. Lampi has swapped his role as test driver for full-blooded competition, making his 20th attempt at the 1000 Lakes.
"It's difficult to find the speed, to go maximum. Some rallies you can wait, but here you must trust the roads and go immediately," said Lampi, on his first rally since 1994.
The strong performance and reliability of the Lancer Evolution IIIs could allow Mitsubishi to outscore both Ford and Subaru.
"It's been quite satisfactory. Obviously, Tommi's suffered a bit running first on the road on the exceptionally dry and 'marbly' surface, but he's settled down to produce some very quick times towards the end of the day," said Team Manager Phil Short. "Lasse's done a good job of bringing the car round intact without any problems. Tomorrow will be a more level playing field and we're looking forward to that," he concluded.
Competitors completed 10 stages, totalling 192 kilometres, in the first leg. Another 12 stages, covering 172 kilometres, lie ahead of them tomorrow. They are often narrow and sandy, and Makinen believes that he will be able to turn the tables on the Toyotas.
|1.J. Kankkunen-N. Grist||FIN/GB||Toyota Celica GT-Four||1.39.18|
|2.T. Makinen-S. Harjanne||FIN/FIN||Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III||+42|
|3.M. Gronholm-T. Rautlainen||FIN/FIN||Toyota Celica GT-Four||+ 1.19||4.J. Kytolehto-A. Kapanen||FIN/FIN||Ford Escort RS Cosworth||+ 1.36||5.T. Radstrom-L. Backman||S/S||Toyota Celica GT-Four||+ 1.48|
|6.K. Eriksson-S. Parmander||S/S||Subaru Impreza 555||+2.02|
|7.H. Rovanpera- J. Repo||FIN/FIN||Ford Escort RS Cosworth||+2.11|
|8.C. Sainz-L.Moya||E/E||Ford Escort RS Cosworth||+3.00||9.S. Lindholm-T. Hantunen||FIN/FIN||Ford Escort RS Cosworth||+3.48||10.L. Lampi-J. Stenroos||FIN/FIN||Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III||+5.23|