4x4, dakar rally, Motoring News, motorsport, off-road racing, toyota

Race aces Alonso and Coma fast learning skills for Dakar

MAKING PLANS FOR DAKAR: Former F1 driver Fernando Alonso (left) and bike racer  Marc Coma share thoughts on the Lichtenburg rally – the the next Dakar rally. Image: Toyota SA

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Marc Coma, five-times Paris-Dakar Rally motorcycle winner and six-times FIM Cross-Country Rallies World champion, has teamed up with former F1 driver Fernando Alonso as his navigator with the Toyota Gazoo race team and is undergoing intensive off-rad training.

Coma, now 42, is an experienced rally-raid campaigner. His first Paris-Dakar (2002) was when the event was still run from the French capital, through the Sahara desert, to the ancient city on the coast of north-west Africa.

He’s had nearly 20 years in the sport, most recently as sporting director of the (still so named) Dakar Rally so is ideal to work closely with Alonso, twice a Le Mans 24-Hours winner, reigning FIA World Endurance champion.

NAMIBIA TRAINING SESSIONS

Both motorsportsmen will now go into the (for them) new  motorsport discipline—Fernando in rally raid and Marc on four wheels.

There has been a series of training sessions in Namibia and Poland and, Toyota says, have advanced quickly through target levels to race in the Lichtenburg 400 cross-country, round five of the SA cross-country series over September13-14.

The event was at first scheduled as a non-competitive outing but was upped to competition. It involved cornfields, undulating veld, dry-river crossings, and technical and open sections. The start/finish was at the Lichtenburg Showgrounds.

Team boss Glyn Hall told The Corner: “Their combined motorsport experience is impressive. We can clearly see their progress  in the Hilux in such a short time. We always knew the training programme would be intensive but they’ve really demonstrated their ability as a team.”

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