Fernando Alonso will work closely with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Dakar team over the next few months ahead of an expected Dakar rally entry.
With Alonso now a free agent after leaving Toyota Gazoo’s World Endurance Championship team after June’s Le Mans 24 Hours and the overall championship, he has signed up to take part in a series of tests and events with the Japanese manufacturer’s Dakar team.
Having already carried out a test of Toyota’s Hilux rally raid truck earlier this year, Alonso will take part in a training programme across Europe, Africa and the Middle East to get used to rally raid and its unique requirements.
While it’s not confirmed yet that Alonso will definitely take part in the grueling endurance rally that is Dakar, he is strongly linked with taking part in the 2020 event with Toyota Gazoo and, to that end, will take part in the 2019 Harrismith 400 in South Africa in mid-September. Toyota stress this is a non-competitive outing, coming a few weeks after a test in South Africa’s deserts between August 20th and 23rd.
- Testing in South Africa – August 20th-23rd.
- 2019 Harrismith 400 – September 13th & 14th.
— Toyota Europe (@toyota_europe) August 20, 2019
The Dakar truck from Toyota Gazoo won the 2019 event with Nasser Al-Attiyah driving, and the team are likely a strong candidate for victory in next year’s rally. The event moves to Saudi Arabia for 2020.
“I’m really excited to continue my adventure with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.” said Alonso of the announcement from Toyota. “Together we have achieved so much since I first drove a Toyota 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 Sébastien [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.” continued Alonso. 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.”
Team boss Glyn Hall said Alonso’s talent was evident as he adjusted to life behind the wheel of a rally raid vehicle: “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. 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 Fernando came to the test prepared and was ready to absorb everything we showed him.”
“Rally raid is new for Alonso and 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 with Fernando to build up his confidence for rally raid competition over the next few months.”