TOYOTA Gazoo Racing South Africa Team boss Glyn Hall has praised Spanish ex Formula One driver Fernando Alonso’s adaptation to cross country rallying.
Toyota revealed Alonso as part of its four-strong factory line-up for the 2020 Dakar Rally last month, but the Spaniard has been training for the past three months, as well as contesting in the gruelling Morocco Rally.
“Since the two time Formula One world champion first began his training in Namibia back in August, his progress has been impressive” explained Hall.
“The plan has been going better than we expected, but there is no manual that tells you how to guide drivers from one discipline to a completely different one,” he continued.
Hall has explained that Fernando’s biggest issue is his “fearlessness”.
“For me, the biggest problem is that Fernando is not afraid. He is very brave, his speed is no problem, but this adds another element of risk to us.”
He continued to say that Alonso clearly has the speed to compete at the Dakar, as well as any other cross country event, but he needs to understand how to manage his pace to last the full distance as no driver can remain at 100% for the duration.
Toyota have hired five time Dakar champion Marc Coma to act as co driver and navigator to Alonso.
Although there was far more experienced navigators out there, Toyota believe that Marc’s ability to understand the dunes and to communicate in Spanish with Fernando will be their biggest advantage.
“The combination is great, but as for the pace inside the car in the race, Marc learns at the same time that Fernando and that is perhaps our biggest challenge right now.
“Of course, there were other options, such as Jean-Paul Cottret (Stephane Peterhansel’s former co-driver), but I think the Spanish connection inside the cockpit is very strong.”
Alonso will compete in the Ula Neom Rally, a round of the Saudi Desert Rally Championship that begins tomorrow, to help him prepare for the kind of terrain that he will experience eat the Dakar next year.