Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso will contest next year's Dakar Rally endurance event in a factory-run Toyota Hilux.
The Spaniard, who claimed the F1 title in 2005 and 2006, will make his Dakar Rally debut next year and will compete in the gruelling rally for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team. After undertaking a testing programme, he has contested a number of rally raid events with Toyota in recent months while evaluating whether to mount a Dakar bid.
Alonso already has strong links with Toyota’s Gazoo Racing squad. He contested the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship with the team, winning the title, and the Le Mans 24 Hours in both 2018 and this year in a TS050 Hybrid sports car.
Alonso will be co-driven on the event by fellow Spaniard Marc Coma, who has take five Dakar victories in the bike division, but will be co-driving in a car in the event for the first time.
Toyota won the event last year, with Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah taking victory in his Hilux Dakar, run by Toyota’s South African arm. Al-Attiyah will return this year, with 2009 Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers and rally raid veteran Bernhard Ten Brinke completing the four-strong driver line-up.
Alonso won 32 races during his time in Formula 1, but left the category at the end of last season after a troubled spell with McLaren-Honda. In recent years he has broadened his horizons beyond grand prix racing, tackling the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren as well as his endurance outings with Toyota.
Next year’s Dakar Rally will be held on January 5-17, and will be staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time. The rally raid event was first organised in 1979 and originally ran from Paris to Dakar in Senegal, before security concerns in Africa prompted a move to South America in 2009.