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Gordon Becomes First American to Win Car Category Stage in Dakar Rally

U.S. based NASCAR driver Robby Gordon has become the first American to win a car category stage in the Dakar Rally by taking the opening stage and the overall lead in Barcelona, Spain.

Gordon, in a Volkswagen Touareg, had the fastest time in the six-kilometer, super special stage on the beaches near Barcelona - 4:20 minutes.

Japan's Hiroshi Matsuoka was second, two seconds back in a Mitsubishi Pajero. South Africa's Giniel de Villiers was third fastest in a Nissan pickup, three seconds off the lead.

In the motorcycle category, Frenchman David Fretigne won the stage aboard a 450 cc Yamaha, finishing in 4:11 minutes. Favorite Cyril Despres was second, eight seconds back, with Dutchman Eric Verhoef third.

Dutch driver Hans Bekx leads the truck category. Firdaus Kabirov of Russia is second, 15 seconds back, with Dutchman Jan de Rooy third, 16 seconds behind the leader.

The 9,000 - kilometer trek continues Saturday with a 919-kilometer liaison to Granada through Castellon. The event continues through January 16 when it will finish in Dakar, Senegal.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.