Tommi Mäkinen and Mitsubishi: poker of WRC titles in the 90s

The 90s: a golden era for the World Rally Championship, full of faces still in the fans' memories. Among this elite circle, in the second half of the decade Tommi Mäkinen became the main character conquering four titles together with Mitsubishi. And he always wore OMP racewear, as this 1997 suit we show you from our archive together the ARS race seat.

The Finnish driver, opposite to his rival Colin McRae, didn't rush towards the top: he is already 30 when, in 1995, he signs a contract with the ambitious Japanese marque to contest his first complete season as factory driver. It's the eve of a winning cycle never seen before in the WRC.

The 1996 campaign kicks off in the best way, with the win on Swedish snow. It's the second career affirmation for Tommi. After this one, other four will follow at Safari Rally, in Argentina, Finland and Australia, plus a second place in Greece: this score enables Mäkinen to mathematically secure his maiden crown with two spare rounds.

This is just the beginning. Mäkinen confirms himself on the throne for the next three years, turning into the first WRC driver to take four championships in a row, and equalling fellow Finnish Juha Kankkunen. The bond with the Lancer Evolution, developed by racing department Ralliart through III, IV, V and VI versions, turns into something iconic. The Japanese constructor sticks with Group A technical specs, but it beats anyway the opponents that starting 1997 are using the new World Rally Car rules for their weapons.

Mäkinen and Mitsubishi take 22 joint wins, and some of them are true milestones. In 1997 itself the first tarmac victory arrives, in Catalunya, while in 1999 comes the time to enjoy the so long awaited success at the Monte-Carlo Rally, replicated in the next two editions. The decider of 1998 season it's a proper thriller: at Rally Great Britain Tommi suffers a DNF after an incident caused by an oil patch, but his opponent Carlos Sainz goes out just 500 meters away from the finish line of the very last stage. Tommi receives a phone call while he's in the hotel: the title is still in his hands. Mitsubishi gets its maiden Manufacturer's title, thanks to the contribution of team mate Richard Burns as well.

Mäkinen will end his driving career in 2003, but it stays among the rally environment to kick off an equally brilliant manager path. In 2016 he becomes team principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT which, together with OMP as partners, in 2018 reaches the first of three Manufacturers' Championship in five seasons.