Gronholm wins Rally of Sweden

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Finland's Marcus Gronholm celebrated his birthday in style on Sunday by winning his fourth Rally of Sweden.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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The final day of the Rally of Sweden featured two intriguing battles. One of them was between Sweden's Daniel Carlsson and Italy's Giovanni Galli, both driving a Mitsubishi. Carlsson led Galli by 0.2 seconds before the last special stage, and extended that advantage to 6.8 seconds to take 3rd place overall. Mattias Ekstrom of Sweden was fifth at one stage but finished without a championship point after crashing his Skoda. The main duel was between Finland's Marcus Gronholm, driving a Ford, and the Citroen of Frenchman Sebastien Loeb. Loeb cut 11.4 seconds off Gronholm's 25.1 second lead by winning the first four stages on Sunday, but Gronholm won the last three to clinch victory by 30.9 seconds. His winning time for the 19 stages was 3 hours, 9 minutes, and 01.9 seconds. The first to congratulate Gronholm was his co-driver Timo Rautiainen, who started singing happy birthday as they crossed the finish line. Gronholm turned 38 on Sunday. It was the fourth time the champion has won the Swedish event, following his victories in 2000, 2002 and 2003. Gronholm also won the first event of 2006, the Rally of Monte Carlo, and leads the standings with a maximum 20 points, four ahead of Loeb. Gronholm will look to make it three wins from as many races this season at the next round of the world championship in Mexico from March 3 to 5. (AP)