Fernando Alonso went through all in his first-ever off-road outing in Lichtenburg 400 in South Africa.
Alonso with navigator Marc Coma in the Toyota Hilux had a tough two days in South Africa Cross Country Rally series’ Lichtenburg 400 last weekend, where the duo covered more than 1000 km in the rally.
The Spaniard entered with Toyota Gazoo Racing in a non-competitive class, where he ended up 32nd overall under Production category. He had multiple ‘firsts’ in his maiden cross country rally outing.
Already in his first loop, Alonso had a soft roll over in 27 km distance which damaged the windscreen. They then had to complete the run wearing goggles without the screen in front of them.
The second loop had them start from first after getting approval from the organisers after undertaking repair work but a bird hit damaged the screen again as they had to drive and hold the screen for rest of the stage.
“Every time we go in the car we learn something and we get more and more familiar with the Hilux,” said Alonso. “Unfortunately, today was a little bit of a nightmare for us. In the morning, we rolled over a little bit and broke the windscreen which affected our visibility so we had to removed it.
“We drove the rest of the loop with goggles on, in the dust behind all the cars. For the second loop the organisers allowed us to start in front, to have a clear view. After a few kilometres, we hit a bird and the windscreen broke again.
“Then it was nearly 200 kilometres with one hand on the windscreen and the other on the steering wheel. It wasn’t the best day for us, but we were able to get more kilometres in the Hilux and it’s good to experience these things before we get to more important races.”
Navigator Coma added: “It was a pretty tough day for us after a really good day start. We started the race smooth but rolled the car at one point but we managed to finish the loop. Then we started the second loop with a new windscreen to get more experience in the Hilux.
“After just a few kilometres, we hit a bird and it broke the windscreen. The wind and dust started to come inside the car, making it very difficult to drive to the end. It really wasn’t easy to hold the windscreen in place while navigating at the same time.
“With Fernando, we managed the situation together and got to the end of the race. Even with all the challenges we faced, we still managed to get a lot of valuable kilometres under our belt and we know that all of this is part of the experience we are gaining.”
Team principal Glyn Hall added: “We certainly proved this weekend that Fernando has the speed and Marc has the ability to co-drive in the Hilux. Despite the ups and downs, this weekend was an invaluable experience for the crew. We are fast-tracking one of the best racing drivers the world has ever seen into a discipline he has never experienced before.
“With just five months to prepare for one of the toughest races in motorsport, we have an incredible task ahead of us. In the Prologue, we saw that Fernando can keep up with the best drivers in South Africa, who are as good as they come in the world.
“Competing at this level in terms of speed, and with such a steep learning curve, we expected little setbacks along the way. This is exactly the kind of experience they need to have so it doesn’t come as a surprise if it happens during the big race.
“The determination shown by Fernando and Marc today is nothing short of impressive. The crew got back in the car and completed the first loop without a windscreen in the dust, and again in the second loop while holding the window up for most of the stage.”
Following his maiden run, Alonso already flew to Qatar to prepare for another rally in his training programmer i.e Rally of Morocco during October 3-9, with Nasser Al-Attiyah in dunes.