(CNN) -- Former world rally champion Carlos Sainz had to settle for second place behind Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah on the opening stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally in Argentina on Saturday.
Sainz powers his Volkswagen through the tough roads on the first stage to Santa Rosa.
BMW's Al-Attiyah, who specializes in long-distance all-terrain rallies, had two minutes and 17 seconds in hand on Volkswagen's Sainz on the stage from Buenos Aires to Santa Rosa, which included 371 kilometers of special sections.
South Africa's Giniel De Villiers and Mark Miller of the United States claimed third and fourth, also driving Volkswagens.
Mitsubishi's Luc Alphand, who won the Dakar Rally in 2006, is in fifth place, four minutes and 44 seconds behind.
Alphand's fellow Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel lies in sixth spot, just under five minutes behind.
Peterhansel won the last staging of the famous race which finished in the Senegalese capital of Dakar in 2007.
Last year's edition was called after because of terrorist threats, leading organizers to switch to motorsport-mad Argentina where thousands have flocked to the pre-race events.
The 13-stage event will also go into Chile before finishing in the Argentine capital.
In the motorcycle section, Spain's Marc Coma scored a crushing first-day victory to establish himself as clear favorite for overall honors.
Czech Jacek Czachor came home a massive 22 minutes behind the KTM rider in second place with reigning champion Cyril Despres finishing 41 minutes down after a puncture.
"I paced myself cautiously, waiting for the moment, on an unusual stage," Coma was quoted on the official race Web site www.dakar.com.
"What has happened to the others could also happen to me. I saw that Despres had problems with his back wheel after filling up at check point two.
"After that, I tried to open up the gap."
Sunday's second stage goes from Santa Rosa to Puerto Madryn with a 237 kilometers of special sections.