Alonso enjoys first off-road Dakar Rally test with Toyota


Fernando Alonso got his off-road baptism of fire with Toyota today, kickstarting a two-day test in South Africa with the Japanese manufacturer.

The Spaniard was flanked during the test by 2009 Dakar winner and special advisor Giniel de Villiers and reported back with positive feedback about his maiden experience in the dunes and on the gravel.

"I have tried different series and different cars over the past two years and it is an opportunity to try something very different to what I am used to driving," Alonso said.

"It has been fun. Different, no doubt, but interesting. The car takes a significant amount of abuse, more than I am used to having. But it was a lot of fun."

Despite an environment that had few things in common with his usual surroundings, McLaren's IndyCar driver felt comfortable onboard the specially prepared Toyota Hilux.

"Everything is very different," he added. "The bumps are complicated to read, to judge their height and how fast you have to drive over them.

"The car is going well, with good grip, balance, power and braking. Everything feels incredible.

"It's still the first few minutes in the car, but I feel comfortable, more than I probably thought, despite the heat inside."

Alonso will tear through the sand and dirt once again on Thursday, again under the guidance of de Villiers.

"We are in the Kalahari desert and it is not the place where you would expect to see an F1 champion in a normal way," said the former Dakar victor.

"It's great that Fernando came here with us to try the Hilux. It is the best way to try something so different for him and so new.

"It's a matter of getting used to the terrain, reading the jumps, the dunes, everything you're not used to."