Rally of Finland - Leg 1 Story

FIA World Rally Championship 20 - 23 August 1997 48th Neste Rally Finland Friday 21 August 1998 _________________________________________________________________ Finnish Tommi Makinen and co-driver Risto Mannisenmaki of Mitsubishi Ralliart,...

FIA World Rally Championship 20 - 23 August 1997 48th Neste Rally Finland

Friday 21 August 1998


Finnish Tommi Makinen and co-driver Risto Mannisenmaki of Mitsubishi Ralliart, lead the field by only seven seconds at the end of the first leg of the48th Neste Rally Finland, after an all-day battle with Toyota's Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Finn Juha Kankkunen of Ford. Makinen took the lead from Sainz after stage 2 and, despite winning only one stage of today's nine, scored enough top times to maintain his position. "I made a mistake with the tyres at first," said local hero Makinen, "but the car has been very good and we are in the right place for a big attack on tomorrow's long stages."

No less than 116 competitors started this morning for the first leg of this tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, a little more than 300 kilometres, of which 90 kilometres were on 9 special stages, running North of the host town of Jyvaskyla.

Heavy rain fell all day, making conditions even more difficult for the drivers over the fast flowing stages, but it did very little to deter the hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic spectators, coming from all Finland and Europe.

The slippery Finnish roads nevertheless claimed their toll, catching out many top drivers, including Subaru's Scot Colin McRae, who retired after hitting a tree on stage 4 and German Uwe Nittel of Mitsubishi, who left the road on stage 7.

A 07h00 restart await drivers in the morning before a long and arduous day, with nine stages covering 195 competitive kilometres south-west of Jyvaskyla. With more rain forecast, that will easily be the toughest leg of the event.


Leader Tommi Makinen is getting strong support from British team-mate Richard Burns, holding tonight sixth place in his Mitsubishi Carisma GT. "Naturally I'm pleased with the car and my own performance," said Burns, who has never contested this rally before. "All the drivers in front of me are either former winners or have led the rally in the past, but these stages are not as tricky as the second leg."


After setting two fastest times and climbing to second place, Colin McRae's hopes of a points-scoring finish came to a premature end during stage four, when his Impreza 555 WRC slid wide under braking and hit a tree, damaging the rear suspension. "We managed to reach the end of the stage, but the car was all over the place and it was impossible to continue," said the Scot. "It's disappointing as far as the championship is concerned, but I have a good record on all the remaining events, so we're still optimistic and fighting all the way."

Despite all his experience, team-mate Jarmo Kytolehto was caught out in the slippery conditions on stage 2 and lost two and half minutes, after sliding wide and into a ditch.

"Fortunately there were spectators around and they helped us out," said the Finn, "but we lost time reversing the car and then we had a slipping clutch."


Four times World Champion Juha Kankkunen, competing on stages just a few kilometres from his home town of Laukaa, delighted his home fans catching third place. "The heavy rain has made today's stages extremely difficult, even for an experienced campaigner like me," said Kankkunen. "Tomorrow stages are wider and faster and I know them well, so we'll attack hard."

Fellow countryman Ari Vatanen was happy to finish the leg in eighth place, competing in his home rally for the first time in four years.

"I feel a little bit rusty, but I'm really enjoying myself," joked the 46-year-old Finn.

Belgian Bruno Thiry found it hard to come to terms with the treacherously Finnish stages and lies eleventh, more than three minutes from the leader.


Seat made a good debut of its WRC, placing Harri Rovanpera in the top ten. "It was a very good day. Each stage I had a better feeling of the car and now I know more about its limits. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and I hope to gain a couple of places." Spaniard Oriol Gomez on his Finnish and four wheel drive debut was justifiably cautious and ended the day in 18th place.


By winning the opening stage of the day, championship leader Carlos Sainz made his intentions clear and, with further rapid times over the remaining stages, the Spaniard kept up a strong pace and placed second. "It has been very difficult today and in some places you had to be really careful," said Sainz.

Team-mates Marcus Gronholm and Didier Auriol also encountered the heavy rainstorm which swept across the stages and made driving so treacherous. "At one point there was so little grip that I thought that something had broken," said the Finn. Auriol was also a stage winner, despite having to drive without fifth gear for much of the leg.

"At the end of the leg the gearbox was changed," said the Frenchman "and I feel we are in a good position for the rest of the rally."

Other Teams

Local hero Marcus Gronholm showed his talent by scoring two fastest times and ending the day in fourth place in his Toyota Corolla WRC. Fellow Toyota driver Thomas Radstrom from Sweden also set a fastest time and lies just outside the points in seventh. His Toyota Castrol Sweden team therefore lead the FIA Teams Cup category.

In the two-litre category, British Rally Champion Mark Higgins leads the field in his Nissan Almera. In Group N, Juha Kangas has nearly thirty seconds in hand over current leader in the points standings, Gustavo Trelles from Uruguay. Both drive Mitsubishis.


Leg 1 covered 307.18km, including 90.08km on 9 special stages.

Starters: 116 cars (70 Group A + 46 Group N), started the rally.

Leading retirements (Finnish unless stated): Lindholm, Puhakka, McRae

(GB), Evans (GB), Nittel (D), Eriksson (S).

SS1 Kuohu 1 (6.34km)

1 Sainz (E), Toyota 03m03,6 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 03m03,6 3 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 03m06,7

SS2 Mökkipera (13.43km)

1 McRae (GB), Subaru 06m52,7 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 06m53,1 3 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 06m54,5

Leaders after SS2

1 Sainz (E), Toyota 09m56,7 2 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 10m01,2 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 10m01,2 4 McRae (GB), Subaru 10m03,1

SS3 Valkola (8.46km)

1 McRae (GB), Subaru 04m38,6 2 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 04m39,1 3 Grönholm (FIN), Toyota 04m40,9

Leaders after SS3

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 14m40,3 2 McRae (GB), Subaru 14m41,7 3 Sainz (E), Toyota 14m42,2

SS4 Lankamaa (26.20km)

1 Grönholm (FIN), Toyota 13m33,3 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 13m35,2 3 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 13m36,2

Leaders after SS4

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 28m16,5 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 28m17,4 3 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 28m22,8

SS5 Ruuhimaki 1 (7.534km)

1 Auriol (F), Toyota 03m53,7 2 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 03m54,7 3 Grönholm (FIN), Toyota 03m54,9

Leaders after SS5

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 32m11,2 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 32m14,0 3 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 32m18,2

SS6 Harju (2.57km)

1 Sainz (E), Toyota 01m59,2 2 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 01m59,9 3 Kytölehto (FIN), Subaru 02m00,6

Leaders after SS6

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 34m11,1 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 34m13,2 3 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 34m19,6

SS7 Kuohu 2 (6.34km)

1 Grönholm (FIN), Toyota 03m54,8 2 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 03m55,2 3 Sainz (E), Toyota 03m55,4 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 03m55,4

Leaders after SS7

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 38m06,5 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 38m08,6 3 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 38m14,8

SS8 Parkkola (16.31km)

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 08m16,3 2 Auriol (F), Toyota 08m16,9 3 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 08m18,8

Leaders after SS8

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 46m22,8 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 46m31,0 3 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 46m33,6

SS9 Hippos 1 (1.69km)

1 Radström (S), Toyota 01m40,5 2 Auriol (F), Toyota 01m40,8 Grönholm (FIN), Toyota 01m40,8 4 Sainz (E), Toyota 01m40,9 Burns (GB), Mitsubishi 01m40,9

Leaders after SS9

1 Makinen (FIN), Mitsubishi 48m04,9 2 Sainz (E), Toyota 48m11,9 3 Kankkunen (FIN), Ford 48m15,1


Saturday 22 August

Leg 2 starts from Laajavuori, Hotel Rantasipi at 07h00 and covers 539.13km, including 194.58km on 9 special stages.

The first car is expected in Laajavuori, Hotel Rantasipi, at 20h04.

Weather forecast

Cloudy with rain.

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Mark Higgins , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Juha Kangas , Thomas Radstrom , Juha Kankkunen , Risto Mannisenmaki , Gustavo Trelles , Ari Vatanen , Uwe Nittel