Fernando Alonso is known to be me a man who wears different racing hats. The two-time Formula One champion who ended his F1 career after driving for McLaren in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year had tried tried his luck with the World Endurance Championship as well as IndyCar Series.
The Spaniard has now turned his attention to the ultimate off-road races of all times — Dakar Rally — and is looking forward to making his debut in the 2020 edition to be held in Saudi Arabia from January 5 to 17. And as he looks to gain a seat with Toyota Gazoo Racing, he has turned to the master himself for help. Qatari ace Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, who won this year’s Dakar Rally in a Toyota Hilux is helping out Alonso in the dunes.
Alonso also did a trial run in the Hilux in a non-competitive outing in Lichtenburg 400, fifth round of the SA Cross Country off-road racing series, in the North West Province of South Africa. It was not a smooth sailing though for the 38-year-old who had five-time Dakar champion (in bikes) Marc Coma as his co-driver. Not so smooth Alonso and Coma found the going tough initially as a soft rollover stumped their race after only 27km.
The windscreen of the Hilux was broken and the pair lost time to remove the glass before continuing. The duo finished the 190km loop while taking turns to hold the broken windscreen in place between driving and navigating and finished 16th overall.
After the Hilux was repaired, race organisers allowed Alonso and Coma to start the second loop 15 minutes ahead of the field to gain quality mileage.
The second loop proved to be equally challenging, after a guinea fowl struck the windscreen 5km into the stage, resulted in a second broken windscreen for the crew.
Alonso and Coma’s next competitive event is the Rally of Morocco to be held from October 3 to 9. To prepare for the gruelling sand dunes of the Moroccan desert, Alonso went to Qatar to learn the ropes of dune driving from none other than three-time Dakar winner Al Attiyah.
Dune bashing “Non stop! From South Africa to Qatar for more action. Driving and learning from the legend Nasser Al Attiyah in the dunes. Great two days in Qatar. Masterclass! Thanks my friend!,” Alonso tweeted after his Qatar adventure. Alonso also posted four images of him driving in the dunes with Al Attiyah in what looked like a Can-Am buggy as he stepped up his preparations for Dakar 2020.