Fernando Alonso has driven a Hilux with this year’s Dakar Rally-winning Toyota Gazoo Racing in South Africa as a precursor to a possible start in the event.
Alonso already has links with the Japanese marque, with which he races in the World Endurance Championship, and stated last year that he was “open for more things” without specifically committing to a Dakar campaign.
His outing in the Dakar Hilux saw him guided by Giniel de Villiers, the team-mate to this year’s winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah.
“I have tried different series and different cars over the past two years and it is an opportunity to try something very different to what I am used to driving,” said Alonso after his first day in the car.
“It has been fun. Different, no doubt, but interesting. The car takes a significant amount of abuse, more than I am used to having. But it was a lot of fun.”
The two-time Formula 1 world champion, and 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, was surprised with how ‘comfortable’ he felt driving the Hilux over the dunes and gravel.
“Everything is very different,” he explained.
“The bumps are complicated to read, to judge their height and how fast you have to drive over them.
“The car is going well, with good grip, balance, power and braking. Everything feels incredible.
“It’s still the first few minutes in the car, but I feel comfortable, more than I probably thought, despite the heat inside.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA (South Africa) is responsible for Toyota’s Dakar program and built the Hiluxes which delivered the manufacturer its first event win in the famous rally raid in January.
Alonso’s drive will continue on Thursday (local time).
— TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WEC (@Toyota_Hybrid) March 27, 2019