Fernando Alonso says he already feels comfortable on his first go in a Dakar Rally Toyota Hilux machine in the desert of South Africa.
After reports of a test being arranged by Toyota for Alonso to run their Dakar-spec car, it finally materialised on Wednesday when the Spaniard drove the 2019-spec Hilux car, which won the Dakar at the hands of Nasser Al-Attiyah in January.
Alonso had his first go in the Kalahari desert in South Africa in a controlled environment for the two-time F1 champion to get to grips with the dunes and the rough terrain. He had 2009 Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers and his co-driver Dennis Murphy to impart lessons.
“It fell OK actually,” said Alonso. “We build a speed little bit and slowly, lap after lap, getting more confident. Obviously, it is still early, specially the bumps are difficult to read, how high they are and how much speed you can carry on.
“The car is going well, with good grip, balance, power and braking. Everything feels incredible. It’s still early days in the car, but I feel comfortable, more than I probably thought, despite the heat inside.”
The Spaniard will drive the car on Thursday as well with de Villiers providing the reference points and helping him as much to get upto speed in a totally different machine as well as terrain than he is used to so far in his career.
Calling all South African #ToyotaGazooRacing motorheads! @24hoursoflemans Le Mans winner @alo_oficial is test driving the #ToyotaGazooRacingSA #Dakar2019 Hilux, right here on African soil, for the very first time! Stay tuned to our page for more info. pic.twitter.com/qRaVPgSu6L
— Toyota South Africa (@ToyotaSA) March 27, 2019