Alonso confirmed for Dakar assault with Toyota
Toyota has confirmed that two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso will be part of its factory assault on the Dakar Rally next January.
Alonso will contest the Saudi Arabian-based event on January 5-17 in a Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa-prepared Hilux 4x4 with Marc Coma as his navigator.
He joins defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, Giniel de Villiers and Bernhard Ten Brinke in an expanded four-car factory line-up for the Japanese marque, which was unveiled in a press conference on Thursday in Tarragona.
Alonso turned his attention to cross-country rallying after the conclusion of a stint in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota that yielded two Le Mans 24 Hours victories and the 2018/19 drivers' title alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Preparations for his Dakar assault began in earnest in August, with an appearance in the Lichtenburg 400 in South Africa the following month marking the Spaniard's first competitive outing in the discipline.
A troubled run to 16th in that event was followed by a 26th-place finish in the Morocco Rally earlier this month - although Alonso had been running in the top 10 when he crashed into a ditch, and set top-10 times in three of the five stages in the traditional Dakar warm-up.
#314 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux: Fernando Alonso
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Alonso's Dakar preparations continue with a two-day test in Tarragona on Friday and Saturday, before he takes part in the Ula Neom Rally, a round of the Saudi Desert Rally Championship on November 4-9 at the wheel of a newly-built Hilux.
Toyota is then considering a final test in Abu Dhabi in December prior to the start of the Dakar itself on January 5 in the city of Jeddah on Saudi Arabia's west coast.
Dakar legend Coma to serve as Alonso's co-driver
Toyota: Alonso's bravery adds extra Dakar risks
Audi star Carlos Sainz is hoping the Dakar Rally can produce a roadbook that is accurate and easy to read after his 2022 outing was derailed by navigational issues.
Carlos Sainz has expressed his frustration at the minimum weight of T1U cars being raised by 100kg for the 2023 Dakar Rally, saying rules are hurting electric cars such as the Audi.
Audi has revealed the weight-saving measures it undertook with its Dakar Rally contender to make the car lighter and more agile ahead of its second crack at the marathon in 2023.
Audi has significantly overhauled its Dakar Rally prototype for 2023, with the upgrades aimed at improving efficiency of the powertrain and making the car easier to operate for the crew.