Fernando Alonso rolls Hilux bakkie during off-road racing debut

Fernando Alonso
had an adventurous off-road racing debut in Lichtenburg.

The former
Ferrari F1 driver is now part of Toyota’s Gazoo racing team for the 2020 Dakar
rally raid, scheduled to be run in Saudi Arabia.

Read: Double F1 champion Alonso describes South African test as incredible

Alonso: From F1 champion to off-road racer

Alonso is a
driver of immense ability, having won two F1 world championships and the Le
Mans 24-hour race. He is ambitious in his desire to add a Dakar off-road racing
win to his impressive racing achievements.

Seeking the best possible vehicle and team for his 2020 Dakar campaign, Alonso has chosen the South African designed and built Hilux V8 racing bakkie.

It is a
vastly different racing vehicle to anything he has driven before. Alonso is accustomed
to racing cars with a very low centre of gravity and powerful aerodynamic aids.

His seating
position in the Hilux is much higher and the bakkie has enormous suspension travel,
to cope with the severity of terrain it races over.

Then there is the issue of having to learn how different surfaces (sand, gravel, rock and mud) influence the Hilux V8’s overall mechanical grip and steering. Test sessions in the Northern Cape and Namibia have given Alonso some time at the wheel but his first off-road race was always going to be the truest test.

cbf9e499 key visual tgrsa fa 301  2048x1536 - Fernando Alonso rolls Hilux bakkie during off-road racing debut

Mastering a new racing art

South
Africa hosts one of the world’s best off-road racing series and the Spanish motorsport
celebrity found himself in the North West province to compete. He was here to
race the penultimate final round of the 2019 South African off-road racing championship,
with qualifying on Friday and the race on Saturday.

Results
were not important. Gaining experience was. Alonso’s raw speed was evident during
the Lichtenburg 400. He set the third fastest time in qualifying, in completely
unfamiliar conditions.

Unfortunately,
Alonso rolled his Hilux V8 only 27km into the race, which damaged the
windscreen. Although he lost a great deal of time righting his Hilux after the
rollover, and had to contend with a damaged windscreen, Alonso managed to
finish in 16th place overall.

The most
valuable aspect of his debut South African off-road racing experience will undoubtably
be a greater appreciation of anticipating the tipping-point of his Hilux V8
bakkie.

His presence
at a local off-road racing event was a thrill for motorsport fans. It also
proved that South Africa is a choice location for the best international
drivers  to come and learn their off-road
racing craft. Especially in a bakkie.

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