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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Flying Finn touches down
By Mark Barden
BBC Sport

Tommi Makinen
Born: Puuppola, 26/06/64
WRC debut: 1987, Finland
WRC 1st win: Finland, 1994
WRC champion: 1996-99
WRC events: 134 (to date)
WRC wins: 24

Having won his first title on a tractor 21 years ago, Tommi Makinen has decided he no longer wants to plough the same old furrow.

Finland's four-time world rally champion had been contemplating retirement for several months after a poor 2002 season when he finished eighth in the standings.

Perhaps Makinen's mind was finally made up at the recent Rally of Finland when sixth place was the best he could manage.

He was also comprehensively out-driven in his home event by Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg, with the rising Norwegian star second behind winner Markko Martin.

At 39 and with his place in rallying history guaranteed, Makinen has no reason to keep mixing it with the sport's young guns.

His best finish this year was a second in Sweden, but non-podium placings have been more the order of the day in 2003.

Having personified the "maximum attack" style synonymous with Finnish rally drivers for so long, Makinen was clearly disheartened by his struggles.

Scrambling for points in fourth, fifth or worse is clearly not where you want be when you have tasted world championship glory in four consecutive years.

Makinen celebrates his 1998 world title at the Rally of Great Britain
I have seen nearly everything, I have won four titles
Tommi Makinen calls it quits

That unrivalled quartet of titles came between 1996 and 1999 when Makinen and his Mitsubishi Lancer were in perfect harmony.

His four straight championships were the culmination of a driving career which began - believe it or not - with Finnish national ploughing titles in 1982 and 1985.

Clearly a countryman at heart, he took to the unmade roads and forests of rallying like a duck to water, tackling his first event in 1985 and winning the Finnish Junior title a year later.

Makinen's first world championship rally was, aptly, the 1,000 Lakes in Finland in 1987, driving for Lancia.

European-level success followed but his career really took off in 1990 when he teamed up with experienced co-driver Seppo Harjanne.

Two top-10 world championship finishes and three Group N titles followed, and Makinen's breakthrough win in the WRC came - even more aptly - for Ford in the 1,000 Lakes in 1994.

He signed for Mitsubishi shortly afterwards and never looked back, winning twice in his debut season, including in Finland again.

In fact, there was seemingly nothing Makinen liked more than racing on home territory, and between 1994 and 1998 he won the Finnish event every year.

Tommi Makinen
Makinen on the charge this season

No home win in 1999, but another four triumphs helped him take an unprecedented fourth title before the opposition - in the shape of Peugeot and Subaru - began to reel in Mitsubishi.

A one-win season dogged by mechanical problems saw Makinen relinquish his crown in 2000.

And although he won three times in 2001 and was in title contention until crashing out of the season-ending Rally of Great Britain, he took the decision to end his association with Mitsubishi.

His debut for Subaru saw Makinen win the 2002 opener in Monte Carlo, but Solberg clearly had the measure of his older team-mate and went on the clinch second place in the championship.

Always at his hard-charging best when he sensed victory was attainable, Makinen rarely had that feeling this year, so he appears to have made the right decision.

He hasn't ruled out the odd rally appearance in the future but, like his good friend and former F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen, will probably find retirement suits him just fine.




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