Between them Coma (KTM) and Despres (Yamaha) have won the last eight Dakars.
Barreda won the opening stage in a time of 2hr 25min 31sec with Coma 37 seconds behind and five-time winner Despres,who is racing on a Yamaha for the first time, a full 1:40 back in third.
"I'm really happy with the first stage. At the beginning I had some trouble easing into the race due to a slight problem with the suspension, but afterwards everything went smoothly," said Barreda.
Despres admitted it felt strange not racing for previous team KTM.
"I took some time to find my bearings and ease into my pace," he said.
"I got a bit emotional at the start, what with starting a new adventure... It was a difficult year, with the decision to move to Yamaha, and then having to prepare the motorcycle, working with the entire team... So when D-Day comes, it feels good to be racing again."
Stage one result
1 Joan Barreda Bort (ESP) 2:25:31
2 Marc Coma (ESP) 2:26:08 +37
3 Cyril Despres (FRA) 2:27:11 +01:40
4 Alain Duclos (FRA) 2:27:27 +01:56
5 Paulo Goncalves (POR) 2:27:56 +02:25
6 Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHI) 2:28:55 +03:24
7 Juan Pedrero Garcia (ESP) 2:29:18 +03:47
8 Michael Metge (FRA) 2:30:04 +04:33
9 Sam Sunderland (GBR) 2:30:04 +04:33
10 Alessandro Botturi (ITA) 2:30:19 +04:48