The only man other than Sebastien Loeb to have won four consecutive World Rally Championship Drivers’ titles, Tommi Makinen and his Mitsubishi Lancer were an almost untouchable combination in the WRC between 1996 and 1999.
Makinen was born in Finland in 1964, close to Jyvaskyla, the home of the country’s 1000 lakes rally, and it was here in 1987 that he made his WRC debut in a Lancia Delta HF 4WD. He didn’t finish on that occasion, but he won the Finnish Group N championship the following year. A comparatively late developer, Makinen spent another six years learning his craft, in a variety of cars, before his first WRC win came in 1994, on Rally Finland with a Ford Escort RS Cosworth. In 1995 he was signed up by the Mitsubishi Ralliart Team and began an enduring and extremely successful association which lasted until 2001. His first win for the Japanese company came in 1996 on Rally Sweden with the Lancer Evo 3, and from that point on he dominated the sport for four years, winning 18 rallies and back to back titles in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Relatively speaking, results tailed off for Makinen from that point on. He picked up another four rally wins in the next couple of seasons, but increasingly Tommi faced tough competition from the likes of Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns. He switched teams to Subaru in 2002 and took his last rally win on the Monte Carlo Rally - his first event with the blue and yellow squad. A handful of podiums followed that year and the next, but Makinen bowed out of full time competition with a podium on Rally GB 2003 to concentrate on his rally car preparation business in Finland.