Is Fernando Alonso Missing Formula 1? Sure Doesn’t Look Like He Is, As He Practises For The Dakar Rally
Fernando Alonso since quitting Formula 1 at the end of 2018 has kept himself busy, mainly by sampling virtually every type of motorsport that he can! The two-time F1 world champion’s 2019 calendar year has included Daytona 24 Hours victory, as well as his second Le Mans 24 Hours win and World Endurance Championship title with Toyota. Alonso doesn’t lack ambition either, as his latest foray is with the Toyota Hilux rally car, in preparation for an assault on the Dakar Rally next January.
And that is going so well that in the latest phase of Toyota’s “intensive” preparation program, Alonso completed double the mileage that was planned! This was in two days of Hilux training across September 2 and 3 in Szczecin, Poland, covering some 700km and including sections from the recently-concluded Baja Poland. It featured a variety of terrain, including sand tracks, hard and soft soil, and bumpy terrain developed by rally raid specialists and the team’s logistics partner, Overdrive Racing.
“It was definitely a positive couple of days here in Poland where I could experiment with a different sort of terrain,” Alonso said. “At this stage of my training, I welcome every kilometer in the Hilux and I’m happy we were able to push ourselves beyond the team’s original plans. It’s really great to be part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing family and be given opportunities to try my hands at different types of motorsport. The Hilux has been really fun to drive and I’m enjoying every test.”
Alonso has not yet confirmed whether he will drive in the forthcoming Dakar, to be held in Saudi Arabia, yet last month he and Toyota unveiled a five-month rally raid training program to develop his skills for the event. This followed Alonso trying the 2019 Dakar-winning Hilux over two days in the Kalahari Desert in March. The training program is with the Gazoo South Africa operation that represents Toyota at the Dakar and is to include Europe, Africa and the Middle East running. It started with Alonso completing a four-day test in the Hilux in Namibia last month.
Team principal Glyn Hall added that completing double the planned mileage in Poland is testament to how well Alonso is adapting. “This is the first test for Fernando in Europe with the Hilux driving on very different terrains and conditions compared to Namibia two weeks ago,” Hall said. “As we progress through our intensive training program, we are focused on getting quality kilometers as Fernando continues to familiarize himself with the Hilux and rally raid, more so than pure mileage. Nevertheless, we were able to double the planned mileage for this test which demonstrates just how quickly Fernando is acclimatizing to the Hilux.”
Alonso now will head to South Africa for a non-competitive outing in the Lichtenburg 400, the fifth round of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), which takes place on September 13 and 14. It has been reported that Toyota is planning to have Alonso contest another two or three rallies in the lead-up to the Dakar. He is expected to enter the traditional Dakar rehearsal Rally Morocco on October 3 to 9, as well as the final round of the SACCS in November.
Images courtesy of Toyota