Fernando Alonso secured his first cross-country rally podium with navigator Marc Coma in AlUla–Neom Cross-Country Rally, on Saturday.

After being announced as one of the four crews to compete in 2020 Dakar Rally for Toyota, Alonso and Coma continued their prep for the Saudi Arabia event as the Spanish duo took part in the AlUla–Neom Cross-Country Rally, this week.

The cross-country rally is Round 3 of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, where Alonso drove the Toyota Hilux. This is the first competitive event for Alonso in Saudi Arabia after having raced in Africa before, including the Rally of Morocco.

The idea for the Spaniard was to get himself in-sync with the terrain, which will come handy in January for his Dakar debut. Alonso had a mostly trouble-free run to be fourth in the opening two days. He then finished the remaining two stages in third.

Alonso was running fourth overall until a late penalty to Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, which dropped him back and helped the Spaniard to finish third eventually and also score his first cross-country rally podium.

“It was a good four days preparation for the Dakar and discovering new terrain and new things here,” the Spaniard said on Saudi Gazette. “To be third in the final two stages and to be third in the overall is the first podium of my life in rally.

“It is good that it happened now and gives us confidence for Dakar.” At the front, meanwhile, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov endured much troubles but still took the victory from Yasir Seaidan and navigator Francois Cazalet.

It remains to be seen where Alonso competes next – if any – or he straight gets into Dakar mode. The Spaniard was to visit F1 during the US GP but skipped the grand prix. He can still drop by at the Yas Marina circuit for the Abu Dhabi GP.

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