In the first African stage, from Nador to Errachidia in Morocco, Team Dakar USA's Robby Gordon surprised many by breaking into the top ten in overall classification with a 5th place finish in Stage 3. Gordon now lies in 8th overall, with a dozen stages yet to go.

Stage 3 was won by the Schlesser/Ford of two-time Dakar winner Jean-Louis Schlesser (pictured above in last year's Dakar).

The overall classification sees the Mitsubishi team in first and second, with arch-rival Volkswagen filling the rest of the top 5. Less than a minute separates 1st and 5th places. Mitsubishi's Nani Roma, winner of the motorcycle classification of the 2004 Dakar, is the new leader overall.

The first African stage exposed the teams to "the real Dakar," with difficult desert navigation and the tough terrain of Morocco's infamous wadis. Tomorrow's Stage 4 will see the drivers encounter the first sand dunes

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