The second Moroccan stage of the Dakar rally ended on a high note as South Africans, Giniel de Villiers and Alfie Cox, finished second and fourth in their respective categories.

The second Moroccan stage of the Dakar rally ended on a high note as South Africans, Giniel de Villiers and Alfie Cox, finished second and fourth in their respective categories.

As the stage stretched from Agadir to Smara, drivers were able to achieve fast speeds across the early parts of the special stage, but rocky and rough tracks soon forced the drivers to ease off the pace as nearly everyone succumbed to punctured tyres. The second part was more winding with a combination of fast and slow sectors leading competitors to the checkpoint on a salt lake.

In the car section, former WRC ace Colin McRae finished first in his Nissan Hardbody ahead of de Villiers.

“The stage was really rough,” McRae said, “the sort of thing that could destroy a car. We had one puncture, but I think that over ground like this, no matter how careful you were it was difficult to avoid that sort of problem. There were some very fast sections, but we tried to keep the right pace, taking care of the Pickup.”

"Of course it's very good for me, and for the team to win the stage and take the leadership of the overall standings, but we're just at the beginning of a very long race."

De Villiers finished just over six seconds behind his team-mate, giving Nissan a one-two stage finish. The other Nissan driver, Ari Vatanen, started the stage in a promising fashion, but eventually ended in 12th position.

Stage three winner, Robby Gordon, finished Tuesday’s stage in ninth position, admitting that he had decided to take it carefully over the rocky route on his first Dakar.

There was more action in the bike race as many riders fell over the testing terrain. Two serious crashes were recorded, with Jordi Duran being forced to withdraw from the competition after injuring his collarbone.

Early overall leader David Fretigne slipped to seventh overall after he got lost following the wrong tracks and finished the stage in seventh spot.

However, Australian Andy Caldecott pulled off a stage win in his debut Dakar rally. An ecstatic Caldecott said: "It's a very good day for me. There were so many rocks on the track and that was very tricky.

"On the second part of the stage, I took good care of the tyres. I know this kind of track well because it's very similar to the ones I'm used to riding in Australia. I had fun today."

Fellow KTM rider Marc Coma followed Caldecott to the chechpoint, while South Africa’s Alfie Cox, also on a KTM, finished the stage in fourth place.

"Like today's winner, Andy Caldecott, I also felt at home with the stage reminding of places like the Tarkastad and Caledon races in South Africa with very rough patches opening up to high speed dusty stretches,” Cox said. “The secret today was to go fast, but not to get a wheel off the main track, because a broken rim or buckled disc would cost you dearly.”

In the truck race, Gerard de Rooy was set for an easy stage victory when his DAF ended on its side after a serious crash kilometres away from the finish line. He dropped to 48th position and lost three-and-a-half hours to the leaders while waiting on an assistance truck.

Defending champion, Russia’s Vladimir Tchaguine, completed the stage about six minutes ahead of Kamaz team-mate Firdaus Kabirov.