Stage 2 brought the remaining competitors a further 400 kilometres north as they left behind Al Wajh and sped towards Neom as Al Attiyah used all his experience to drive through tricky conditions.
"There was one place where all Top 5 cars were lost, navigation is really difficult at this rally. After this we had to relax our pace and proceed with a little caution. When we could we tried to push, but unluckily for us we had another three flat tyres out there. The race is really difficult, but this is how it should be at the Dakar," said Al Attiyah, who has Frenchman Matthieu Baumel as his navigator.
De Villiers shines
De Villiers, who lost 23 minutes when he finished 14th in opening stage, bounced back strongly over the 401 kilometre-route, of which 367 were a special between Al-Wajh and Neom.
Many drivers had navigational problems and De Villiers took advantage of a mistake by long-time stage leader and home hope Yazeed Al Rajhi to guide his Toyota home in 3hrs 37mins 20secs.
Trouble for Alonso
Alonso suffered his first major problem in his first Dakar when he ground to a halt with a damaged wheel. He was running fourth after 100kms of the special when the problem occurred.
The Spaniard had no option but to wait for his assistance team before he was able to resume. However, his chances of reaching the podium already look unlikely.
Terranova leads overall
Orlando Terranova heads the overall standings in his Mini. The Argentinian, who was sixth in the opening stage, is almost five minutes ahead of fellow Mini driver Carlos Sainz.
Stephane Peterhansel, the 13-time champion, already trails by 13 minutes.