Dakar Rally director David Castera has predicted that Fernando Alonso will win a stage in his first attempt at the legendary rally raid next month.
Alonso will tackle the Saudi Arabia-based event at the wheel of a factory-run Toyota Hilux with Dakar motorcycle legend Marc Coma as his co-driver.
Since August, the two-time Formula 1 world champion has been ramping up his preparations for the marathon, contesting the Lichtenburg 400 in South Africa, the Morocco Rally and Al-Ula Neom Rally in Saudi Arabia, in which he secured third place overall.
More recently he completed 600km of testing in the Abu Dhabi dunes earlier this month, his final run before the start of the Dakar on January 5.
Alonso has maintained that he doesn't expect to fight for the win and will primarily focus on making it to the finish of the two-week event.
But, speaking to Motorsport.com, Castera said Alonso could realistically aim to fight for a stage victory in the second week of the Dakar, once he's gained more experience.
"He has to learn to be humble, because if he wants to advance to the maximum level he has to accept being behind slower drivers than him in theory," he said. "That is the first thing.
"But I think he can win a stage before the end of the Dakar, in the second week he can do something special. But he will have to wait and take the first week step-by-step.
"Then, I think he will have the chance, especially with Marc, who knows the rally very well and everything, which will help him a lot."
Castera added that he feels Alonso's presence in the Dakar will boost the event and hopes it will tempt more high-profile motorsport stars to contest it in future.
“We are very happy to have Fernando," said the Frenchman. "It is true that for us it is something interesting because he is a person with a very strong appeal and that can motivate many other drivers in motorcycles, cars, etc, to do the Dakar.
"Let's see what happens and how he progresses step-by-step in this rally."
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