Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Fernando Alonso: “Winning Dakar one day, it is a high priority for me”

Fernando Alonso ran his first and only Dakar Rally in 2020 before returning to Formula One on a full-time basis the following year. While his pursuit of a third World Championship remains his goal, he still has an itch to return to rally raid.

In an interview with the High Performance podcast published Sunday, Alonso discussed the mental side of career including how he has approached his return to F1. Although currently enjoying his best season since 2014 as he sits third in the standings, he revealed winning the F1 title is not necessarily at the top of his list since he has plenty that he wants to cross off his bucket list such as a Dakar Rally victory.

“I will try 99% Dakar again,” began Alonso. “It is not that the third world title is less of a priority—it is a priority, but winning Dakar one day, it is a high priority for me as well. I will maybe have to attempt that race eight, ten years or whatever until maybe one day I get lucky and I can fight for the win.

“But if I win in Formula One, in endurance racing, and Dakar, that will feel for me something special as a driver and as a person. Those kind of challenges are in my head at the moment.”

In the midst of his sabbatical from F1, Alonso entered the 2020 Dakar Rally with Toyota Gazoo Racing; to prepare for the start, he entered events like the Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally in Saudi Arabia and Lichtenburg 400 in South Africa, finishing third overall in the former. Racing a Toyota Hilux with fellow Spaniard Marc Coma as his navigator, Alonso was knocked out of overall contention by suspension damage from hitting a rut in the ground during the second stage. He was able to continue the rally after repairs and otherwise showed quick pace that included a runner-up finish in Stage #8. Alonso rolled the truck two legs later, but reached the finish thirteenth in the general ranking.

The start came on the heels of a successful sports car run with TGR, winning the 2018 and 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as that season’s FIA World Endurance Championship. Alonso’s three years away from F1 also saw him compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and he won the latter in 2019.

Although his F1 obligations limit his racing activities elsewhere, his interest in another shot at Dakar is not exclusive to himself. His Dakar team-mate and reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and Dakar Rally director David Castera are among those who have expressed hope of a return, while former F1 colleague and 2022 Silk Way Rally SSV winner Nikita Mazepin recalled Alonso telling him during a drivers’ parade that he would like to compete in rally raids again.

He signed a multi-year contract with Aston Martin beginning 2023. While terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed, it locks him with the team through at least 2024.