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.

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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.

Solberg said: ''It was so hard to try and catch Colin, but we had to try. I think the problem for me in Sweden is experience - the drivers ahead have done a lot more competitive driving in these conditions, but then that fastest time was great for my confidence.''

Makinen added: ''We have shown how good the car is here. I took a little gamble on the final stage, using snow tyres, but it didn't work, we couldn't catch Marcus. I am happy with this result. I didn't expect it when we came here.''

Both Ford Focus RS WRCs ran faultlessly today. Francois Duval crashed out on the opening leg.

Martin knew he'd have his work cut out keeping Colin McRae behind him, but the Estonian proved that he was up for the job, stretching his advantage over the Scot on the day's first two stages and then set his first fastest time of the rally on SS16 to pull ten seconds out of McRae, clinching the position.

Mikko Hirvonen's progress to the end of the event was without drama. The 22-year-old Finn admitted he was relieved to get to the end after crashing out of the first round.

Martin commented: ''I had never done SS15 before, so it took me a while to remember it from the recce. When Colin took some time out of me in there, I knew I had to respond. I attacked the next stage hard and everything worked. At the last split I saw I was already nine seconds up on everybody, so I backed off a little.''

Hirvonen added: ''The car has been perfect all of the way through the rally, and I've got some good experience of this event, which is what I set out to do.''

Over at Citroen meanwhile all three Xsaras ran without any problems. McRae maintained his fifth place to the end of the event. The Scot admitted that he'd been too steady through the day's opening stage. He clawed some time back on fourth-placed Martin through SS15, but said his chance of snatching the extra point disappeared when the Ford driver put in a blistering time through the next test.

Loeb brought his Xsara WRC home in seventh position, despite being slowed down too early for privateer driver Janne Tuohino's accident on SS14. He moved past Freddy Loix on SS15 and then battled through the final stage with team-mate Carlos Sainz and Skoda's Toni Gardemeister, leap-frogging them both to make seventh.

Sainz hadn't had any problems during the day and was still working on the set-up of his car.

McRae said: ''It was tricky this morning. We had to push to try and catch Markko, but any mistake from us would have meant that we might have let Petter past. After where we'd been running on the first day, this is a pretty good result.''

Loeb continued: ''This morning everybody was waving at me to slow down for two kilometres before the place where Tuohino's car was off the road. After what happened to Harri [Rovanpera] yesterday, I was worried so I slow down to 50kph and then we got there and his car was not even in the road. Stupid. It cost me at least ten seconds. I had a really big push through the last stage and it worked, we got the places.''

Didier Auriol's Skoda Ocatvia WRC suffered a hydraulic problem on the final stage. The sister car of Toni Gardemeister ran without any mechanical problems.

Gardemeister said he couldn't have driven any faster than he did through the first two stages of the day. He wasn't quite so quick through Hara, however. The narrow nature of the stage didn't suit the Skoda as much as the earlier tests. Despite his best efforts, Gardemeister slipped behind Loeb, but he held off Sainz and ended the rally in eighth place.

Auriol admitted he'd lost confidence in the car during this rally. The former world champion didn't put a scratch on his Octavia and added that he and the team had learned a lot for next season.

Auriol said: ''I really didn't have the feeling for the car and without that it's very difficult for me to push as hard as I want. We have lots of experience from this rally, now we must go away and get it right for next year.''

Gardemeister noted: ''We have gone so hard today, there's been nothing left in the car. It was a little disappointing that Sebastien passed me, but I am really happy to have held Carlos off and got the team and myself a point.''

At Hyundai Freddy Loix's Accent WRC ran without trouble, but Armin Schwarz's car suffered a misfire on SS16.

Loix slipped back behind the Citroen Xsara WRC of Loeb, but still made the top ten, comfortably ahead of Ford's Hirvonen. Loix also dropped time when he was slowed down too early for the Janne Tuohino's accident. Schwarz held 13th despite a penultimate-stage misfire. The car was dropping on to three then two cylinders every time the engine went onto boost. The German had to drive the car for 25km in this condition.

Schwarz said: ''The team has worked so hard on the reliability of the cars for this event, they have done a good job, it was just frustrating to get this misfire today. Yesterday's change of turbo made a bit of a difference for us and gave us a little more power, but I am happy to get to the finish.''

Loix added: ''There's not much to say. Everybody knows the engine's not so strong and that showed here, but it's good that we got to the finish, it's a shame that we just missed out on a point for the team.''

Of the other entries Janus Kullig won the Production Cars WRC category after turbo failure on SS15 forced Subaru driver - and category leader - Toshi Arai into retirement. Stig Blomqvist [Subaru] was second after a trouble-free event, while Karamjit Singh overcame the differences between his native Malaysia and Sweden to bring his Proton home third. The outright Group N award went to local Mitsubishi driver Kenneth Backlund.

Of the non-works World Rally Cars, Kristian Sohlberg was the first privateer finisher in his Mitsubishi Lancer WRC. Janne Tuohino had been lying inside the top ten when he slid off the road on SS14, spending six minutes in a ditch.

Rally statistics - Leg 3:

Starters: 59 crews (26 Group A and 33 Group N) started this morning.

Retirements: 5 drivers

Today - Sunday 9 February: Leg 3 started from Karlstad at 06h00 and covered 568.2km, including 120.75km on five stages.

Stage by stage summary:

SS13 Sagen 2 (14.17kms):
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 7m 19.1
2. Loeb (F) Citroen 7m 19.5
3. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 7m 20.6

Leaders after SS13:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 10m 49.7
2. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 11m 27.0
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 11m 51.4

SS14 Rammen 2 (23.16kms):
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 11m 41.4
2. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 11m 43.1
3. McRae (GB) Citroen 11m 45.7

Leaders after SS14:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 22m 31.1
2. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 23m 10.1
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 23m 38.8

SS15 Hara (11.91kms):
1. C.McRae (GB) Citroen 5m 55.4
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 5m 56.4
3. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 5m 57.1

Leaders after SS15:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 28m 27.5
2. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 29m 07.2
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 29m 38.4

SS16 Brunnberg 2 (31,66kms):
1. Martin (EE) Ford 15m 08.7
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 15m 11.7
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 15m 15.5

Leaders after SS16:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 43m 39.2
2. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 44m 26.0
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 44m 59.7

SS17 Hagfors (39.85kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 19m 40.0
2. Martin (EE) Ford 19m 42.1
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 19m 45.7

Leaders after SS17:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 03m 28.1
2. Makinen (FIN) Subaru +50.8
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot +1m 17.9
4. Martin (EE) Ford +1m 45.8
5. C.McRae (GB) Citroen +2m 15.8
6. Solberg (N) Subaru +2m 19.1
7. Loeb (F) Citroen +3m 14.7
8. Gardemeister (FIN) Skoda +3m 19.2
9. Sainz (E) Citroen +3m 24.2
10. Loix (B) Hyundai +3m 36.4

PCWRC leaders after SS17:
1. Kulig (PL) Mitsubishi 3h 22m 24.9
2. Blomqvist (S) Subaru +03.3
3. Singh (MAL) Proton +35.1
4. Rowe (GB) Subaru +1m 56.0
5. Bourne (NZ) Subaru +2m 03.8
6. Holowczyc (PL) Mitsubishi +6m 13.1
7. Roman (S) Mitsubishi +10m 41.1
8. Sztuka (PL) Mitsubishi +11m 42.0

Final rally statistics:

Event: The rally covered 1935.13, including 386.91km on 17 special stages (including five run twice). All stages were on snow-covered roads closed to other traffic.

Starters; 75 crews (34 Group A and 41 Group N) started the rally.

Finishers: 54 crews (25 Group A and 29 Group N) finished the rally.

Stage winners:
Gronholm (SS2-3-4-8-9-10-11-14)
Makinen (SS8-12-13)
Burns (SS6-8)
McRae (SS15)
Loeb (SS1)
Rovanpera (SS7)
Sainz (SS8)
Martin (SS16)
Solberg (SS17)

SS5 was cancelled
shared times in bold

Rally leaders:
SS1 Loeb
SS2-SS17 Gronholm

FIA World Rally Championships:

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (provisional standings after 2 of 14 rounds): Loeb (F) 12, C. McRae (GB) 12, Gronholm (FIN) 10, Burns (GB) 10, Martin (EE) 10, Makinen (FIN) 8, Sainz (E) 6, Solberg (N) 3, Robert (F) 3, Duval (B) 2, Schwarz (D) 1, Gardemeister (FIN) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (provisional standings after 2 of 14 rounds): Citroen 24, Peugeot 22, Ford 15, Subaru 11, Hyundai 3, Skoda 3.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship (after 1 of 7 rounds, this event not counting): Tirabassi (F) 10, Katajamaki (FIN) 8, Ligato (I) 6, Broccoli (RSM) 5, Aava (EE) 4, Ceccato (I) 3, Sebalj (HR) 2, Baldacci (RSM) 1.

FIA Production Car World Championship (after 1 of 7 rounds): Kulig (PL) 10, Blomqvist (S) 8, Singh (MAL) 6, Rowe (GB) 5, Bourne (NZ) 4, Holowczyc (PL) 3, Roman (S) 2, Sztuka (PL) 1.

Next event: February 27 - March 2, Rally of Turkey, Antalya, Turkey.