Fernando Alonso and co-pilot Marc Coma have taken an extraordinary second place at the eight stage of the Dakar Rally today, which started and finished in the town of Wadi Al-Dawasir. The Spanish couple has made history onboard their Toyota Hilux V8 achieving their best result to date as a team in the raid.
The ex-F1 champion and his Catalan co-pilot have taken 3:52.27 hours to complete the 716 kilometers (477 of which against the clock) of an extremely hard and long special, with mountains and canyons aplenty as well treacherous stones hidden in the sands. After a sensational performance, the Spaniard duo has crossed the finish line 4:04 minutes behind the unexpected winner of the stage, the French Mathieu Serradori, and his buggy.
The first half of the day featured a 40-kilometer straight, ideal for speed lovers like Alonso. The second half, however, took place mostly over dunes where navigation and orientation have been key. Before such a complete stage, Alonso has managed to place himself up there with the rally veterans, passing the challenge with flying colors, something he was eager to achieve from the start of the raid. The twice F1 world champion is now a bit closer to his dream of winning a stage in the desert.
This result, the best since the start of the competition, comes to prove the obvious progression that the Spaniard is experimenting at the wheel of his Hilux V8. He is also increasingly comfortable and has a great rapport with his teammate Coma. In the two previous sessions, the pair had taken the sixth position, a prelude of what was to come.
It is true that the starting order played in their favor today, with the three favourites, (Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah & Stephane Peterhansel) starting ahead, but Alonso and Coma have nonetheless excelled in their performance. The Hilux started seventh, one minute behind the head, but had to battle with top-level rivals such as De Villiers or Al-Rajhi, both of whom they passed at the last control.
To put their achievement into perspective it is worth remembering that only six months ago Alons didn’t even know how to tackle a 1-meter high dune. Also, up until that point in the middle of 2019, he had never taken part in a rally-raid, such a different discipline from Formula 1 or endurance races, both in which he has been a world champion.
The way things are going, and besides the accident he suffered on the second stage when a stone in the sand nearly toppled his Dakar aspirations, his growth both individually as a rally driver and collectively within his team has been spectacular.
On top of that, Fernando Alonso has defeated some of his most experienced rivals driving the same car as him at specials such as the one on Sunday; one of the longest in the rally.
Currently, the Spanish pair occupies the thirteenth place in the standings but they could well soon make it into the top 10. In order to get there they would have to beat both the French Pierre Lachaume (PH-Sport) and Jerome Pelichet (RaidLynx), one minute ahead, and the current 10th place holder, the Chinese Wei Han (Gelly Auto Shell Lubricant Team) with a near four-minute advantage.
There are still four thrilling specials until the end of the Dakar on Friday. They have enough time and experience to make it there!
Images: Fernando Alonso Twitter