N after his second overall victory in the 24h race in Le Mans had recently become a little quieter around Fernando Alonso. In the absence of competition, the Spaniard had lost interest in prototype sports and said goodbye to the WEC. Since his successors at McLaren are doing an excellent job in Formula 1, there was also no opportunity for a Grand Prix comeback. And so an alternative was urgently needed.
Fortunately, the employer Toyota has an endurance program in the off-road area in addition to its endurance program on the racetrack. The racing department of Gazoo Racing has been using the Toyota Hilux successfully for some time in rally raid events, including the annual highlight of the season, the Dakar Rally, where Nasser Al-Attiyah won the Japanese for the first time earlier this year.
First rally outing in South Africa
After Alonso had already completed a small taster course in the off-road pickup in March, the 38-year-old is now deepening his commitment. The Spaniard will reel off an intensive training program in Europe, Africa and the Middle East over the next five months.
Alonso has already contested the first test. In the Namibian desert, the man from Oviedo deepened his relationship with the Hilux and scrubbed almost 1,000 kilometers over three days. Alonso felt his way closer to driving in the desert, got to know the pitfalls of the dunes and tried to improve his feeling for the different types of terrain and transitions. Toyota provided him with Giniel de Villiers, who took part in the 2009 rallyDakar won. De Villiers was also testing components for the 2020 version of the V8 racing pickup.
“I see the preparation as an adventure and try to improve step by step. As racing drivers, we always have this competitive idea that will come alive at the right time. Since I still have a lot to learn, working with an experienced team like Toyota takes a huge burden off my shoulders. The team has proven to be very successful and has remained constant over the years, so that I can focus on the milestones that I have to achieve every day, 'concluded Alonso.
The dune test with the works team served as preparation for the first race in mid-September at the Harrismith 400 event in South Africa, which is part of the South African Cross Country Series.
Dakar Rally Start not yet confirmed
Alonso is looking forward to the new challenge: “Since my first outing in the Toyota in November 2017, we've achieved so much with Gazoo Racing. At the beginning of the year I already got a good taste of off-road rallying, which I now want to deepen. '
' I know it's a completely different experience with a steep learning curve, but I immediately found a lot of confidence in the Hilux and improved with every run. I have always emphasized that I am looking for new challenges in different disciplines and now I have found a great team where I can do that. '
Toyota has announced that it will be using the Hilux at the upcoming Dakar, but that Fernando Alonso will also be allowed to drive one of the cars has not yet been officially confirmed. The classic marathon will no longer take place in South America this coming season, but for the first time in Saudi Arabia. Anyone who knows Alonso knows that he will only start if he sees a chance of victory.