Dakar, Endurance, future… a chat with Fernando Alonso

3 MIN 26 March 2020

Tenacity, charisma, a multi-faceted, winning character. This is Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, born in Oviedo on 29 July 1981, won his first kart race at 7, the World title at 15, and made his Formula 1 début at 20 with Minardi, after a quick appearance in Formula 3000. At 24, he won the first world title with Renault, and the second the following year. The rest is (very famous) history.

Seasons with Ferrari and McLaren, a few ups and downs and a brief return to Renault. Then goodbye to Formula 1 and onto Endurance with the Toyota Gazoo Racing team, with two victories in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans and the World title in the FIA WEC SuperSeason 2018-2019. Without forgetting the unlucky appearance in the 500 Miles of Indianapolis, the magnificent win at the 24 Hours of Daytona last year and, last but not least, the extraordinary and unexpected participation in the 2020 Dakar, again with Toyota, in the team with the Spanish biking legend Marc Coma, which ended with an excellent 13th place.

This experience was supported by an exceptional partner, Cetilar Racing, in a relationship based on mutual esteem that developed during the last two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Over time this relationship has been consolidated, and in future could also hold some great new experiences in store. But we will talk more of this if and when it is confirmed.

Today, with Fernando and his manager Alberto Fernández, we talked of the desert, the dunes, sweat and that unique atmosphere of the Dakar, with “Magic Alonso’s” first time on the sand. First of all, trying to catch a glimpse of his very personal album of memories.

“There are really very many, and all very strong. The nicest was the atmosphere at the camp, where we all stayed with the other drivers; a unique, family atmosphere where everyone shared everything. In such an extreme competition, you need friends at all times, both during a stage and during the stops, so it’s a really great atmosphere, because you can feel that spirit of cooperation”, he recalled with a smile. “The worst, toughest memory was the night in the desert, during the marathon stage: we set off in the morning, we slept in the desert and went back the next day. At times it was really stressful, the toughest moments of the whole rally”.

And, judging by the stories told by these stars and their faces after driving miles and miles over the harsh sandy tracks, the very essence of desert racing: competitions reserved for the toughest motorsports athletes, who don’t even blink when tackling an unexpected loop after an unauthorised take-off from a dune, athletes who don’t mind getting their hands dirty (literally) under the blinding sun, to change a tyre or try to repair the engine. More than anything, this is a race through hell

“Yes, the Dakar is really tough, but it’s a challenge that I will certainly be facing again in future. I don’t know yet whether this will be soon or in a few years’ time, also because this is a race that can be tackled even later in life. But I will certainly be back sooner or later, trying to win again”, Alonso states firmly. “I realise that for a driver like me, born and raised on the tarmac, it’s harder than for others. This is why, when the time comes, I will need a strong testing and training programme. But winning the Dakar would really be something new, so why not try?”.

And this makes you think that one of Fernando’s best qualities, aside from his natural exceptional talent, is his huge ambition. That which, two years ago, led him (successfully) into the endurance field, getting to know Cetilar Racing and subsequently the personal sponsorship for the 2020 Dakar.

“I got to know Cetilar Racing and continue to follow all their activities. I really like kart racing, that’s where I started out. I have a kart racing school in Spain and I think that all Cetilar’s initiatives to help young people in the Performance project are really important. Endurance on the other hand is a unique category, the races are long and hard, it’s great to share the good and bad not only with your driving companions but also the mechanics and all the team members, who are always ready to give you a hand, day or night. There’s a huge team effort. And there are some other interesting aspects. For example, you share the track with three other categories, with different performances. So you have a split second to agree with the person ahead of you, to know whether to go right or left. The way the drivers understand each other on the track is really quite special. And all the successes are a really great memory: the FIA WEC World title and the two wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, these are really special moments in my career, just like the Formula 1 Grand Prix wins”. And if someone who won 32 grand prix races out of 314 participations, you should really believe him…

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