Fernando Alonso will lower your Toyota quiet. It has been a good stage. You don't mind (still) the classification of the Dakar 2020, in which figure 11; glances to the times (15 minutes away from the head); and trusts, especially their feelings, that tell you that you have started with a firm foot in Saudi Arabia. Although laughs at what is right and confesses: “I believe that it is not fun to almost no one. We all left with a lot of uncertainty”. It is one of the things that attracts him the most of the test, so different from the World of formula 1 and endurance that comes from, but, competitive, and winner, also one of the things that it takes away from the dream. “To get ahead 300 or 400 miles and not know even a meter of what is to come is attractive as a pilot. You have to go off the cuff continuously; besides, the level of response from the car is different as it moves the stage: we went out with 400 liters, we end up with 50; tires respond differently in the dunes, in the gravel... you have to adapt the ride to different terrains and conditions grip,” he explains. Nothing to do with shooting in a closed circuit, his specialty, on asphalt, time and time again by the same line, by nailing the times. The Dakar is out of your comfort zone.
“I care less that other Christmas”
Alonso, said to be prepared for if you have to do some workaround in their Toyota —made a test in Morocco to work out the mechanics— is concerned about damage to the car. That's why you feel more prepared physically than psychologically. Has not changed his preparation, despite the fact that last year Al-Attiyah lost seven pounds. “I was told not to come to 100%, so at Christmas I care less than other years”.
The change of scenery, however, does not lose too many skills. “We have a good natural rhythm, that is important, without forcing and risking the speed of this first day has been good”, granted his co-driver, Marc Coma, five-times winner of the Dakar on a bike although a rookie in this new facet. “Here, the role of the co-pilot is much more important than I thought initially,” says Alonso, accustomed to receive orders by radio, and to feel accompanied in the race, the monitored lap after lap, with a whole team behind it. His only company in the Dakar, Coma. “The difficult thing is that you see many things and you have to pass it, we had to create a language that's practical for both of you, for he understands me well”, he says, The expiloto I was sort of reluctant at the beginning. Give orders to Fernando Alonso it is not easy to —“with all the respect that you have...”, snorts—, but has assumed that its task here is also to tell you when to accelerate and when not to.
The hype around this couple is such that the team has made clear how and when to talk to the star, which is situated behind a tape to meet the journalists —all of them at once; not grant even a single interview— staff; it does so kindly and extends their responses. Alonso already warned before the start of the race is known in the crosshairs. “We always expect a lot out of me, my life is a bit stressful in that regard”, granted.
Maybe that's why your team protects you. Maybe that's why, also, the spaniard, 38, prefers to surround himself with his own. Take refuge in his caravan, with his right hand, his childhood friend, Galle, Alberto Fernández, who he has known since his early days in karting, and with his physical therapist, Edoardo Bendinelli, the ex-husband of his sister, who here serves as the physio of the other riders of the team. Although next to Galle is the one responsible for the caravan that will sleep and will have breakfast each day, the champion of the world you arrive at the camp relevant. Because, despite their desire to seek refuge with their friends, Alonso feels comfortable with the idiosyncrasies of the Dakar, with the day-to-day sleeping in the motorhome —a long time ago that the best pilots do not sleep in tents— or dinner with the rest of the team. “I like the environment here, to see how they work in the car, shower, dinner and put myself in power saver mode”, account.
The broker, which has not stopped putting in challenges since leaving the formula 1 —resist the 500 miles of Indianapolis—, you feel ready to approach the top 10 in the rally harder and more popular in the world. Ago, year and a half to Glyn Hall, team principal of Toyota, asked opinion. What I saw Alonso in the Dakar? How could Toyota help you to be competitive as it did before with Giniel de Villiers, another pilot coming out of the asphalt? Hall was clear. “The first thing I had to do was test the car, so I said nothing more to finish the Dakar last year”, granted. And took it to his country of origin, south Africa, and there, in the desert, De Villiers showed him the way.
“After that first test because it was clear that Fernando had the qualities that are needed for this. In addition, I had the energy and the passion to face this new challenge,” he explains. The duo Alonso-De Villiers was tested also in Namibia and in the Spanish finished the 24 hours of Le Mans began to prepare for the Dakar: Poland, again south Africa (now Coma) and Qatar (next to Al-Attiyah); it was two times in Morocco, where he played in the rally, was third in the test At Ula-Neom, scenario that you will return in a few days, and he completed his training in Abu Dhabi. In addition, it has been soaked of the videos that Hall has sent to Di Villiers. He has not gone wrong. But we are 11 other stages ahead.
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