Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Fernando Alonso has completed a two-day evaluation test of the Dakar-winning Toyota Hilux.
Alonso, who currently leads the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) drivers’ standings alongside teammates Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, spent two days learning the specific demands of rally raid during the test in the Kalahari Desert.
The test was organized by Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa and used two different routes in the desert. It was Fernando Alonso’s first experience of rally driving.
He said, “It has been fun – certainly different to what I am used to driving and very interesting. We built up speed slowly, learning lap after lap. It’s not easy to read the bumps and to know how much speed to carry but I became more confident each time.
“The Hilux feels great, it has good grip and balance, lots of power and impressive braking. It felt incredible to drive this car.”
The Toyota Hilux won this year’s Dakar Rally in the hands of Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel. It is powered by a five-liter V8 engine that produces 380hp and 620Nm of torque.
Glyn Hall, Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa team principal, said, “It’s been a fantastic experience for the team to work with a driver of Fernando’s caliber. It’s easy to see why he has enjoyed so much success in circuit racing; he was very well prepared for this test and made a huge effort to learn as much as possible in the two days.
“Rally raid is a totally different discipline compared to circuit racing but Fernando made impressive progress and looked like he had a lot of fun in the process. I am proud that he chose to test a Toyota Hilux in South Africa and I hope it was a worthwhile experience for him.”