SAUDI ARABIA – Fernando Alonso and off-road bike racer Marc Coma are making their final preparations for the 2020 Dakar Rally with Toyota Gazoo Racing and their entry in the current2019 Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally in Saudi Arabia is part of the testing.
The Spanish duo’s latest rally entry comes just a week after a comprehensive two-day private test on the rugged terrain around Tarragona, Spain, after Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Dakar Rally team announcement.
The local rally is the third round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally championship which will be contested over 765km of competitive driving through five stages after the ceremonial start in the north-western city of Al Ula on November 5. That was followed by a short special stage over two loops in the surrounding desert.
FAR AWAY, VERY SIMILAR
The final two stages will take place in and around the new coastal city of Neom, nestled between the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, about 460km north-west of Al Ula.
While the rally takes place in a part of Saudi Arabia far from the upcoming 2020 Dakar Rally route (scheduled to take place in the region for the first time) the terrain and conditions are largely similar to what can be expected in January.
This makes the Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally an ideal setting for Fernando and Marc to cover valuable miles in their Hilux and get a taste of the conditions they may face early next year.
‘WE’RE GAINING EXPERIENCE’
Team principal Glyn Hall told The Corner in a media release: “We’re in Saudi Arabia for Fernando and Marc to can gain experience over race conditions. The terrain and navigation are similar to those of the 2020 Dakar Rally, so every experience they gain here will prove invaluable.”
Alonso added: “We’re in Saudi Arabia to compete in a round of the National rally. This is my first time in Saudi Arabia and I’ve been discovering the country and the terrain we expect for the Dakar.
”It’s great to have an opportunity to race in Saudi Arabia as part of our continued preparations. It’s an all-new experience for me but I’m looking forward to it.
”Marc and I have been out here testing a brand-new car. We completed some shakedown mileage to make sure everything works because we will use the same car for the Dakar so it’s very important to make sure we are 100% ready.”