Toyota Gazoo Racing SA has confirmed Fernando Alonso will undergo five months of “intensive training” in the Hilux ahead of securing a possible race seat for Dakar 2020.
In March 2019, former F1 driver Alonso completed a two-day test behind the wheel of the Japanese brand’s Dakar-winning Hilux in South Africa.
Alonso’s new training programme in the Hilux will take place across Europe, Africa and the Middle East as he bids to familiarise himself with the “challenging rigours of rally raid”. For the record, Dakar 2020 will take place in Saudi Arabia.
The two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner will test in the deserts of southern Africa from August 20 to 23, before making a “non-competitive” outing at the 2019 Harrismith 400 in South Africa, in the fifth round of the South African Cross Country Series on September 13 and 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. Not only did Fernando thoroughly enjoy the experience, but we could see him adapt and improve every time he got behind the wheel,” said Glyn Hall, team principal at Gazoo Racing SA.
“It was clear that Fernando came to the test prepared and was ready to absorb everything we showed him. Rally raid is new for Fernando 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," Hall said.
Alonso added he was “really excited” to continue his “adventure” with the team.
“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,” Alonso said.
“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 38-year-old added.