Alonso tests Toyota Gazoo Racing new car, competes in 2019 Harrismith 400
Fernando Alonso. EFE/EPA/EDDY LEMAISTRE/Archivo
Madrid, Aug 20 (efe-epa).- Spanish Formula1 champion Fernando Alonso is to rejoin Toyota Gazoo Racing and carry out several tests with the team’s new car, the Toyota Hilux which is expected to compete in the upcoming Dakar Rally.
The Japanese team said in a statement that the meeting with the double Le Mans 24 Hours winner came after his successful campaign in the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship.
"Over the next five months, Fernando, who looks to broaden his already-remarkable motorsport career across multiple disciplines, will work closely with Toyota Gazoo Racing and its Dakar Rally team,” Toyota Gazoo said in a statement.
Alonso is “undergoing an intensive training program with the Toyota Hilux across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to familiarize himself with the challenging rigours of rally raid," the statement said.
Alonso is to conduct tests in South Africa’s deserts on Aug. 20-23, and a non-competitive first outing at the 2019 Harrismith 400 in South Africa on Sept. 13-14.
“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 explained.
The 38-year-old said that he is with the right team while chasing “new challenges in different disciplines.”
Toyota is one of the teams expected to succeed in the next edition of Dakar Rally after his triumph over Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah at the beginning of the year.
Toyota team director, Glyn Hall, hailed the qualities of Alonso and assured that the Spanish champion had enjoyed the experience of driving a Hilux.
"Not only did Fernando thoroughly enjoy the experience, but we could see him adapt and improve every time he got behind the wheel," Hall said.
"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."
In May, Toyota Gazoo announced that Alonso would end his journey in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), leaving his position in the team for New Zealand’s driver Brendon Hartley.
Toyota said that Alonso was looking forward to a new motorsport challenge within the Toyota team and was set to leave after his participation in the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours.EFE-EPA