Finish: Gronholm's first win of 2003

Marcus Gronholm has opened his 2003 World Rally Championship account with a victory in Sweden after a characteristically polished performance in his Peugeot 206 WRC

Finish: Gronholm's first win of 2003

The reigning world champion, who was forced to retire while leading the Monte Carlo Rally two weeks ago, was in commanding form all weekend and saw off a prolonged challenge from Subaru's Tommi Makinen with ease after establishing a sensible lead on the first day.

"I am very happy of course," said Gronholm. "It was a good rally with no mistakes and the car was perfect." When it was pointed out that he's twice won the rally before and in each case he went on to win the World Championship, Marcus commented: "In that case it looks good, but we have 12 more rallies to go."

Makinen won the first stage of the day and closed the gap to his Finnish rival, but Gronholm responded immediately by winning the next one, effectively settling the matter.

Gronholm's team-mate Richard Burns had a lonely day but finished a comfortable third ahead of Marko Martin and Citroen's Colin McRae. "I'm happy with the result," the Englishman said after the last stage, "but I didn't feel on top of things. If I can't get the feeling I need in the car there's no chance of catching Marcus. At the moment I have not got that feeling."

The following pair enjoyed a day-long scrap for fourth, both winning a stage in the process. "I'm happy with that," said Martin of his excellent eventual fourth place.

Subaru's Petter Solberg won the final stage of the day and finished sixth overall in vain pursuit of McRae. The Norwegian finished just 3.3sec behind, ruing his set-up choice on Friday, which saw him struggle before he adopted team-mate Makinen's settings for the second and third days. "It's just so bad I didn't do it on Saturday," said Solberg. "It could have been quite good."

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Day 3am: Marcus resists the pressure

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