Reigning Dakar Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah believes rookie Fernando Alonso has proven competitive enough to return to the race in the future, and hopes he is joined by fellow ex-Formula 1 drivers like Jenson Button.
Alonso is contesting his first Dakar this year as part of the Al Attiyah-led Toyota contingent, and sits 16th in the overall classification after the first half of the marathon.
Though a two-hour delay for repairs on the second day has knocked his chances at a headline result, the two-time Formula 1 champion has impressed his rally-raid regular rivals by producing bouts of frontrunning pace.
Al-Attiyah said Alonso caught his eye during the most recent stage on Friday, in which the Spaniard finished ahead of Al Attiyah's long-time Toyota Gazoo teammates Giniel de Villiers and Bernhard ten Brinke.
"A really good week," Al-Attiyah said of Alonso's performances. "Only one day that was really bad luck for him, but if you see the performance, really, today he surprised me - much better than Giniel, much better than ten Brinke.
"For a first Dakar... I know he's a really tough guy, he's learning. This is good because it means next year he will do Dakar."