Makinnen takes big lead after Eriksson withdraws
Mar. 25, 1997
VISEU, Portugal (AP) _ Reigning world champion Tommi Makinen opened a comfortable lead in the Portuguese Rally after his closest rival, Kenneth Eriksson, dropped out Tuesday with mechanical problems.
The Finn, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, completed the second leg with a 3-minute, 15-second advantage over second-place Belgian Freddy Loix and was well-placed to clinch his first victory of the season in the final leg Wednesday.
``We have had a great day, not even minor problems. It will be a bit more difficult to concentrate, because there's no competition. But I won't be celebrating until tomorrow night,'' said Makinen.
Eriksson, who lost his first-leg lead to Makinnen halfway through the day, pulled out of the event when his Subaru Impreza ground to a halt in the final stage. World championship leader Colin McRae and second-place Carlos Sainz both withdrew with mechanical problems on the first day.
Germany's Armin Schwarz drove his Ford Escort into third place, 5:15 off the pace.
The Portuguese Rally is the fourth event on the World Championship calendar.