Carlos Sainz won the opening 13km special stage of the Dakar Rally
Ex-champion Carlos Sainz opened his campaign for a second Dakar Rally title by taking the opening 13km special stage.
Last Updated: 09/01/13 9:16pm
The Spaniard, who won the gruelling race in 2010 in a Volkswagen, drove his Buggy to victory in a time of 7min 40sec, beating Argentina's Lucio Alvarez, in a Toyota, into second, with French driver Guerlain Chicherit, in an SMG, claiming third.
Sainz enjoyed an eight-second advantage over Alvarez and a 10-second gap on Chicherit while Qatari team-mate, Nasser al-Attiyah, the 2011 champion, also in a Volkswagen finished in fourth.
The two Buggys, backed by the financial might of Qatar but prepared in California, gave an early glimpse of their strengths.
That was bad news for defending champion Stephane Peterhansel whose bid for an 11th Dakar title, after collecting four wins in the auto section and six on two wheels, got off to a disappointing start.
The French driver was down in sixth place in his Mini, 34sec behind Sainz.
"It feels great to be racing after spending so much time on test drives. So I'm quite happy just to start the Dakar with this car," said al-Attiyah.
"I put the pedal on the metal from the start and I'm happy with the time I posted in such a short special. Of course, everyone drove really hard today, but I think we're well placed for (Sunday)'s stage."