Nissan Rally Raid Team’s Colin McRae won Sunday’s third leg of the Dakar Rally as the race completed its run through Spain before facing the gruelling African stages.

Nissan Rally Raid Team’s Colin McRae won Sunday’s third leg of the Dakar Rally as the race completed its run through Spain before facing the gruelling African stages.

McRae, a former World Rally champion, completed the 10-kilometre course in seven minutes and 48 seconds.

“My personal aim was to reach Africa in the top three,” McRae said after the stage. “I am not at all unhappy to have succeeded.

“Moreover, I really had fun today. It was very slippery, and very good to drive. A relatively short stage, but one I really enjoyed.”

His Nissan Rally Raid team-mate, South African Giniel de Villiers, finished the stage in third place behind defending champion, Stephane Peterhansel driving a Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution.

In the motorcycles category, David Fretigne repeated his first stage win with Sunday’s victory over the special stage where he extended his lead to 11 seconds.

South Africa’s Alfie Cox finished the stage in second place, a mere two seconds behind the Frenchman. After suffering a fall on Friday’s first leg of the competition, Cox is confident that he’ll be able to make up the lost time despite nursing an injured shoulder.

"I'm very happy because my shoulder hurts less and less,” Cox said. “It hurt a little during the special stage but it's getting better and better. I'm confident for the future.”

The South African’s Gauloise KTM team-mate, Cyril Depres, finished the last stage before the race hits the African continent in third position.

In the truck category DAF's Hans Bekx maintained the lead over the Russian Kamaz team headed by Firdaus Kabirov.

After Sunday’s stage, teams travelled by boat across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco for the event’s first super-long stage. On Monday, the drivers and riders will need to complete a 123 km special stage through forests filled with tricky twists and turns, heavily testing their navigational skills.

This year’s Dakar Rally, which started on December 31, 2004 and ends on January 16,2005, covers 8 956 km between Barcelona and Dakar.