Fernando Alonso and co-pilot Marc Coma are taking part this Wednesday in the Al Ula-Neom Rally (Saudi Arabia), the third appointment of the Toyota Desert Rally Championship. For the Spanish duo, this is the final test prior to the start of the Dakar Rally 2020 , and the rally where Alonso will have a first contact with the region’s desert.
The Saudi Arabian rally consists of 765 kilometres divided into four stages until Saturday, the 9th of November and it will also serve as an opportunity to try out the Spaniards new Hilux Toyota Gazoo Racing car.
This race is also a key part in the training of the Spanish partners, as it runs through the same type of terrain as Dakar’s upcoming edition. Getting a large number of kilometres under their belts on this surface and conditions is essential if they want to face the most famous raid on the planet in January with any chance of succeeding.
Fernando himself has acknowledged the need to climatize, and to have a first-hand experience of the dunes of the Arab country where, in two months time, he will tackle the greatest challenge of his long professional career.
“This is the first time for me in Saudi Arabia and I’ve been discovering the country and the terrain which we expect to see at the Dakar Rally in January. It’s great to have an opportunity to race in Saudi Arabia in our continued preparations” – The Spaniard has declared through a Toyota press release.
As for the particular terrain characteristics in the country, Alonso has been left fascinated: “This is my second rally after Morocco and I am very impressed by the landscapes I have been able to see”.
This is the first time that the famous raid is disputed in the Arabian Peninsula but, in any case, the stages of the Al Ula-Neom Rally do not run through the same territory as those of the next edition of the Dakar.
Organisers have purposefully designed different itineraries so as to avoid participants in both rallies to have a comparative advantage and previous knowledge of the technical characteristics that they would have to face sixty days later in that same nation.
“We have already completed some shakedown kilometres in order to verify that everything was working correctly in the new car. It has only done 20 kilometres and it will be the same that we will use in the Dakar Rally. That is why it is very important to make sure that we are 100% prepared” -explained the two-time Formula 1 champion.
“The Dakar is a completely new experience for me and I am looking forward to it. Marc and I have been testing here before the Al Ula-Neom Rally” – Alonso continued.
Fernando also wanted to express his gratitude for the warm reception he has been given on his arrival in the Arab country and has said to be particularly grateful to Yazeed Al Rajhi for his help. The driver from Toyota, a great favourite to take the win in his native land, will serve as a point of reference for the Spanish couple during the rally.
On the other hand, the head of Toyota’s South African division, Glyn Hall, has talked about Alonso and Coma’s participation in the Al Ula-Neom Rally:
“We are taking part in Saudi Arabia so Fernando and Marc can get more experience in real race conditions where the terrain and navigation will be similar to what our drivers will find in the Dakar at the beginning of the year. The experience they can get here will, therefore, be of great help”.