The favorite, Nasser Al-Attiyah, has won the first stage of the Dakar Rally, which will take the drivers through three South American countries. However, Al-Attiyah had to overcome mechanical trouble to do so.
Nasser Al-Attayah set the pace on Monday's first stage of the legendary race, a 454-kilometer (282-mile) stretch between the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, and Resistencia in Argentina, completing the timed section in 25 minutes and 41 seconds.
Shortly before the end of the stage, though, the Qatari driver, who won the race in 2011 and 2015, had to deal with a fire in his Toyota.
"About a dozen kilometers out from the finish we smelt smoke by (co-driver) Matthieu's (Baumel) seat and there was a bit of a fire. We slowed down to finish the stage and were able to put it out at the finish," he said after arriving in Resistencia.
Fortunately for the Al-Attayah and Baumel, their teammate, Giniel de Villiers, came to the rescue and towed them away.
Three Spaniards, Xavi Pons in a Ford; Nani Roma in a Toyota; and Carlos Sainz in a Peugeot - finished second, third and fourth in the car division.
Nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb finished the opening stage sixth place while defending champion Stephane Peterhansel came in 12th.
Tuesday's second stage crosses 803 kilometers through the Chaco region west of San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina.
The 39th edition of the rally covers 8,800 kilometers through Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia. Almost 400 vehicles, including motorcycles and quads competing in separate divisions are taking part in the ninth edition of the rally to be held in South America.
pfd/ (AFP, dpa)