Fernando Alonso successfully completed two days of Dakar Rally training in his new Toyota Hilux Dakar challenger, finishing late last night (September 3).
The test, conducted in Szczecin, Poland, covered more than 700km, including sections used by the recently-concluded Baja Poland. The training course featured a variety of sand tracks, hard and soft soil, and bumpy terrain developed by rally raid specialists and the team’s logistics partner, Overdrive Racing.
“It was definitely a positive couple of days here in Poland where I could experiment with a different sort of terrain,” said an excited Alonso after the test. “At this stage of my training, I welcome every kilometre in the Hilux and I’m happy we were able to push ourselves beyond the team’s original plans. It’s really great to be part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing family and be given opportunities to try my hands at different types of motorsport. The Hilux has been really fun to drive and I’m enjoying every test.”
The team, now with double Formula 1 and reigning FIA WEC champion on board, will now head to South Africa for a non-competitive outing in the Lichtenburg 400, the fifth round of the South African Cross Country Series, on September 13-14. Originally scheduled to take place near Harrismith, the event moved to its new location due to unseasonably dry conditions which posed a fire risk.
“This is the first test for Fernando in Europe with the Hilux driving on very different terrains and conditions compared to Namibia two weeks ago,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing team boss Glyn Hall. “As we progress through our intensive training programme, we are focussed on getting quality kilometres as Fernando continues to familiarise himself with the Hilux and rally raid, more so than pure mileage.”
Although the Spaniard will not be competing for overall honours (he is not currently registered for the SACC), he will however enter the full event and many will be watching to see how his sector times compare to the experienced field which will include previous Dakar Rally winner Giniel De Villiers.
“Nevertheless, we were able to double the planned mileage for this test which demonstrates just how quickly Fernando is acclimatising to the Hilux,” added Hall. “Next week, we leave the relative comfort of a private test setting to give Fernando a first taste of a rally raid competition environment at the Lichtenburg 400. We are grateful to the South African Cross Country Series for the special dispensation allowing Toyota Gazoo Racing to maximise this valuable opportunity in Fernando’s continuing training programme.”