After trying his hand at F1, IndyCar and the World Endurance Championship (WEC), Fernando Alonso will now try his hand at off-road driving. Over the coming months, the two-time F1 champion and reigning WEC title holder will once again join forces with Toyota Gazoo Racing – with whom he competed in the WEC – to conduct a series of tests with the Toyota Hilux that’s expected to compete in the 2020 Dakar Rally.
Toyota already completed a two-day evaluation with Alonso in the 2019 Dakar Rally-winning Hilux in March this year. The remainder of the intensive training and testing programme will take place across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, over the next five months. The first of these tests will take place in the deserts of southern Africa on August 20-23, 2019. Following that, Alonso will then make his rally-raid debut with a non-competitive outing in the 2019 Harrismith 400 in South Africa – the fifth round of the South African Cross Country Series that is scheduled to take place on September 13-14, 2019.
"I'm really excited to continue my adventure with Toyota Gazoo Racing. 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 Sebastien and Kazuki,” said Alonso.
“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."
The announcement further solidifies rumours that Alonso will be making his Dakar debut next year. The legendary rally will start a new chapter in 2020 as it moves to Saudi Arabia, ending the event’s decade-long stint in South America. Toyota clinched its first overall victory in the Dakar Rally this year, with Nasser Al-Attiyah behind the wheel of a Hilux.