The weather gods ruled the first African stage of the Dakar Rally as heavy fog prevented the bike riders from completing the special stage while South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers lost time repairing a puncture.

The weather gods ruled the first African stage of the Dakar Rally as heavy fog prevented the bike riders from completing the special stage while South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers lost time repairing a puncture.

The stage run between Rabat and Agadir was expected to be difficult to navigate with its unmarked tracks and direction changes through a forest, but the four-wheeled competitors were off without a hitch.

However, the timed section for the bikes was cancelled as dense fog prevented the safety helicopters from taking off. Bikes were then required to convoy slowly to the first checkpoint before proceeding to the checkpoint via the motorway.

In the car section, Nissan Rally Raid’s Colin McRae was unable to repeat his performance of the previous leg as Robby Gordon, driving a Volkswagen Touareg in his debut Dakar, completed the leg in the fastest time.

"The stage was magic," a euphoric Gordon said. "We overtook Giniel de Villiers almost immediately after the stage had started and were able to drive our pace.”

For de Villiers and team-mate McRae, both Nissans lost valuable time changing their tyres after suffering punctures. This allowed Stephane Peterhansel to finish the stage in second place, while another favourite, Bruno Saby, finished third.

Dakar veteran and four-time truck champion, Vladimir Tchaguine drove his Kamaz truck into the overall lead with his first special stage win. Gerald de Rooy in his DAF finished the stage in second position while early leader Hans Bekx experienced some difficulties and only finished the stage in twelfth place.

Tuesday’s stage between Agadir and Smara takes the field through another long (381 km) and fast special stage that will require competitors to be extra cautious while navigating the rocky tracks. However, the first Moroccan special, which was meant to prepare riders for Tuesday’s difficult stage, was cancelled and could prove problematic for the new riders.