Alonso teases "quite difficult" next career move
Fernando Alonso has dropped the strongest hint yet he is preparing to tackle the Dakar Rally next January.
The two-time Formula 1 champion, who has not raced since winning the Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA World Endurance Championship title with Toyota in June, addressed his future plans answering questions submitted by followers of his Instagram account on Thursday evening.
Alonso’s only appearances outside the WEC this year have been in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and a failed bid to make the Indianapolis 500 grid, and he has openly spoken of the possibility of contesting the Dakar as part of his mission to "be the best driver in the world".
The 38-year-old even tested a Toyota Hilux back for two days back in March under the tutelage of former Dakar winner and team regular Giniel de Villiers.
While Alonso didn’t specify he would be contesting the Dakar or cross-country rallying generally during his Q&A, he said his next challenge would be "quite difficult”.
He added: "But it will force me to get the best out of myself and dedicate myself completely to it for several months. If it were easy, it wouldn't be fun.”
Motorsport.com understands an announcement will be made concerning Alonso and Toyota’s plans in the coming days.
October’s Rally Morocco is considered the traditional ‘warm-up’ event for the Dakar, which will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2020, although the Spaniard's preparations are likely to involve numerous other tests and minor competitions.
301# Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux: Fernando Alonso, Giniel de Villiers
Photo by: Toyota Racing
De Villiers: Top 10 a realistic aim for Alonso
Speaking to Motorsport.com earlier this year, de Villiers stressed Alonso would need to start building up his experience in rally-raid in the second half of 2019 to be ready for January.
“[Alonso] is a two-time F1 world champion and obviously knows how to drive,” said de Villiers. “He learns very fast, there are some things he still has to learn, because it was only two days of testing, so it is impossible for him to learn everything you need to.
“He needs a little more time in the dunes, but in terms of track performance, he improved very fast, doing it the right way: starting slowly and progressively increasing speed and at the end he ended up going very fast.
“If he wants to do the race in 2020, he has to do the maximum number of kilometres possible in the car to get used to the environment, the terrain and everything.
“The longer he can be in the car, the better he will do. Doing kilometres in both tests and competition will help him a lot.”
Asked where he felt Alonso could realistically aim to finish, the South African said: “I think it’s too much to ask him to come for the first time and fight for the victory.
“We’ve seen other drivers like Sebastien Loeb, who were used to gravel and still did not win the rally in any of his first four attempts, or Carlos [Sainz], who also needed three or four years before understanding how the race works.
“This race is very complicated and expecting to win it the first time is not realistic. A top 10 is possible, but not a victory, of course”.
The chances of Alonso making a return to F1 in 2020 are understood to have receded in recent weeks, despite speculation having linked to him a potential Ferrari return earlier this year.
McLaren, which on Friday announced it is making a full-time return to the NTT IndyCar Series next season, has also indicated that Alonso is not interested in embarking on a full campaign in the US-based championship, even if winning the Indy 500 remains high on his agenda.
A Dakar bid would likely rule Alonso out of defending his Rolex 24 title as it would prevent him from taking part in the mandatory 'Roar Before the 24' test in early January.
#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Fernando Alonso
Photo by: JEP / LAT Images
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