Alonso tested with Toyota Gazoo’s Dakar Rally group last March, and over the next five months will embark on an intense development and training program with the aim of preparing the two-time Formula 1 world champion and double Le Mans winner for the iconic event.
After testing this week in the deserts of southern Africa, Alonso will get a non-competitive first outing at the 2019 Harrismith 400 in South Africa, the fifth round of the South African Cross-Country Series, on Sept. 13-14.
“In March this year, we completed a successful two-day evaluation with Fernando in our Dakar-winning Toyota Hilux in southern Africa which proved to be a valuable learning experience,” said Toyota Gazoo team principal Glyn Hall. “Not only did Fernando thoroughly enjoy the experience, but we could see him adapt and improve every time he got behind the wheel. It was clear that he came to the test prepared and was ready to absorb everything we showed him.
“Rally raid is new for Fernando, (but) I’m certain he has the skill and spirit to take on this challenge. As reigning Dakar champions with a long history in rally raid, I’m confident we can work well together, looking to build up his confidence for rally raid competition over the next few months.”
Alonso stepped away from Toyota’s LMP1 program after Le Mans in June, and said that he is looking forward to continuing the newest chapter of his relationship with the Japanese manufacturer.
“I’m really excited to continue my adventure with Toyota Gazoo Racing,” he said. “Together we have achieved so much since I first drove for them in November 2017, with our two consecutive wins at Le Mans, the World Endurance Championship for the team and a drivers’ title with my teammates Sebastien (Buemi) and Kazuki (Nakajima).
“I got a taste of off-road rallying earlier this year and it left me with a good feeling that I want to prolong. I knew it would be a totally different experience with a steep learning curve, but the Hilux just felt great; it gave me so much confidence so quickly, and I was improving loop after loop. I’m really looking forward to the next few months of training, getting to know the Hilux and working with the team.
“I’ve always maintained I want to pursue new challenges in different disciplines, and I’m at a great team to do that.”