Ex-world rally champion Carlos Sainz won the first stage of the 2006 Dakar Rally, which began on New Year's Eve.
Sainz is achieving a lifetime ambition by competing in the Dakar
The Spaniard, taking part in his first Dakar event at 43, completed the run from Lisbon to Portimao in 56 minutes and 20 seconds in a VW Touareg.
In the motorbikes category, last year's winner Cyril Despres of France, riding a KTM, won the 83km stage in 58:10.
The rally runs until 15 January and also visits Spain, Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea and Senegal.
Sainz, world rally champion in 1990 and 1992, finished 1:30 ahead of Portugal's Carlos Sousa, with France's Bruno Saby at 1:51.
His Dakar bid is being aided by German co-driver Andreas Schulz, who has won the gruelling race twice.
The Spaniard said: "I've been racing on these kind of roads all my life, so it's
not a surprise that I came first."
Sainz announced his WRC retirement in October 2004, but returned to action in 2005 in a limited number of events as a favour to former team Citroen.
Sunday's 672km second stage runs from Portimao to Malaga in southern Spain.
2006 Dakar Rally first stage results:
1. Carlos Sainz (Spa) 56:20
2. Carlos Sousa (Por) 57:50
3. Bruno Saby (Fra) 58:11
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (Ger) 58:44
5. Guerlain Chicherit (Fra) 59:22
6. Nani Roma (Spa) 59:32
7. Luc Alphand (Fra) 59:40
8. Giniel de Villiers (SA) 59:48
9. Thierry Magnaldi (Fra) 59:50
10. Mark Miller (US) 1:00:00
1. Cyril Despres (Fra) 58:10
2. Ruben Faria (Por) 58:14
3. Marc Coma (Spa) 58:17
4. Helder Rodrigues (Por) 59:00
5. Isidre Esteve (Spa) 59:10
6. David Fretigne (Fra) 59:15
7. David Casteu (Fra) 59:36
8. Jose Manuel Pellicer (Spa) 59:54
9. Andy Caldecott (Aus) 1:00:35
10. Paulo Goncalves (Por) 1:00:45