Peugeot driver and reigning world champion Marcus Gronholm emerged from the final leg of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally to win the event by 50.8 seconds from Subaru driver Tommi Makinen.
Gronholm controlled the rally from the second stage and made it to the finish without suffering any mechanical troubles aboard his 206 WRC. This was Gronholm's third win on the Karlstad-based round of the FIA WRC in four years.
Makinen took his best result since winning the Monte Carlo Rally last year - and the new Impreza WRC2003's first podium finish. Richard Burns took his best result in Sweden, finishing third - one place higher than in 2002. Burns had been troubled by a set-up problem with his 206 WRC which made it difficult for the Briton to get a feeling for the car under braking.
Markko Martin turned in an impressive performance to fend off his fourth position from Colin McRae. The Ford driver's only fastest time of the rally - on SS16 - was enough to secure the place for him.
Citroen had reason to celebrate, with Sebastien Loeb
and Colin McRae joint leaders of the driver's championship, while Citroen
heads Peugeot by two points in the manufacturer's race.
Janus Kullig of Poland won the opening round of this year's FIA Production Cars World Rally Championship in his Mitsubishi.
The 206 WRCs of Gronholm and Burns were mechanically untroubled today. Harri Rovanpera crashed out yesterday.
Gronholm made it safely through the final day, setting eight fastest times on his way to ten points and his first win of 2003. The Finn said he'd dropped his pace a little over the closing stages, ensuring that he made no mistakes which might have given second-placed Tommi Makinen a glimpse of the number one spot. Gronholm's only minor drama on the final day was his studs going off for the final ten kilometres of the Brunnberg stage. ''In Brunnberg I backed off a little, it felt like all of the studs had come out of the front tyres,'' noted Gronholm, ''but I think it was just the tread moving around.''
Burns changed the dampers on his car at first service this morning, but the Briton admitted the new set-up hadn't helped that much. ''It's good to get to the finish and I'm reasonably happy with the result,'' noted Burns. ''We made no mistakes, but it was hard without much feeling today.''
At Subaru the two Impreza WRCs ran without any mechanical trouble. Makinen continued an ultimately fruitless pursuit of Gronholm throughout the day. The Finn made one final alteration to the set-up in service after SS14, but it wasn't enough. Makinen was disappointed to have missed out on the win he said the speed of the car had given him great confidence for the remainder of this year's rallies.
Solberg closed in on Colin McRae's fifth place through the first two stages of the day, and missed out by just 3.3s after a last gasp effort through the final stage, where he set fastest time.