(CNN) -- Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel believes that rival Carlos Sainz will start as favorite for the Dakar Rally -- which makes its first appearance in South America on Saturday.
Nine-time winner Peterhansel (right) believes Sainz (left) is the man to beat in the Dakar Rally.
The rally was moved from Senegal in West Africa for security reasons with event organizers switching it to Argentina and Chile, something nine-time winner Peterhansel thinks will suit Spaniard Sainz.
The 43-year-old Peterhansel, who is driving the new Mitsubishi Racing Lancer and is aiming for a fourth car title to add to the six he won on motorcycles, told Chilean newspaper El Mercurio that two-time world rally champion Sainz starts as favorite because the geographical conditions of the route will suite him.
He said: "Sainz will be fast because the routes are similar to the world rally routes. I raced in Chile in 2005 in the Patagonia-Atacama race and the Atacama desert had the highest dunes I've ever seen. It will not be easy at all."
Sainz, who will be driving a Volkswagen Touareg, believes he is well prepared for his South American adventure and will be able to cope with racing at altitude, which is something new for the 9,574km event.
"The only thing I think of is winning. At this point of my career, I am only motivated by winning it," he said. "We've been told it will be a very tough rally and we've prepared a lot for the heat and the altitude."
The rally, which was cancelled last year because of the threat of terrorist attacks, will begin and end in Buenos Aires and runs from January 3-18.