Fernando Alonso with navigator Marc Coma managed to finish the Rally of Morocco aboard a Toyota Hilux but it wasn’t an easy outing for the Spaniard.

After months of practice and also competing unofficially in South African Cross-Country Series’ round in September, Alonso with Coma made his official debut for Toyota Gazoo Racing in Rally of Morocco – one of the supporting round to Dakar Rally.

He was one of the four Toyota crews competing in the Cars category, with Giniel de Villiers and navigator Alex Haro winning the rally aboard a Toyota Hilux after late retirement to teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel.

Alonso, meanwhile, in the #314 Toyota was 26th overall, just behind the fourth car of Bernhard Ten Brinke and navigator Tom Colsoul. It wasn’t an easy first outing for Alonso, who had three punctures in Stage 1 itself to finish 21st.

It was a supreme comeback in Stage 2 where they improved to 10th overall but it was undone in Stage 3 when the new blind road book idea cost him and Brinke as they drove into the same ditch, which wasn’t marked in the book.

The suspension damage could be repaired but they were handed time penalties to continue. Alsono had more punctures in Stage 4 as they also stopped to help Al-Attiyah. They could only recover to 26th overall in Stage 5, when they finished eighth fastest.

“I’m definitely taking a lot of positives out of the Rally of Morocco,” said Alonso. “It was a busy two weeks here testing and then, for my first international rally raid competition, straight into one of the toughest races on the calendar.

“I’m really happy to cross the finish line and it has been an eye-opening experience to see just how demanding it is for everyone in the team, the cars and the crews. We had some ups and downs in our performance but I think we demonstrated our potential in the Hilux.

“Most importantly, I’m learning from all the difficulties we faced during the rally. I want to congratulate Giniel, Alex and the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team for the win. Giniel has been my biggest help, mentoring me during my trainings in Namibia and South Africa over the past few months.”

Team principal Glyn Hall added: “For Alonso, we knew it was a steep learning curve for him. If we had more time, I would’ve preferred for him to do more local races in South Africa before taking on something as formidable as the Rally of Morocco.

“The route is extremely tough and the road book wasn’t always precise. Despite the challenges he faced, I know he gained more invaluable experience here. He might not feel it yet, but with the decision on Dakar coming up, he will definitely be in a position to reap the benefits of everything he experienced in Morocco.”

There are no rallies between now and October 24 of this month when Toyota will announce its full 2020 Dakar Rally team entry at a press conference, which is to take place at the PortAventura Convention Centre in Tarragona, Spain.

Details of how Fernando Alonso in his first outing in South Africa