Fernando Alonso to compete at 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia

Fernando Alonso
Alonso has won the Le Mans title for the last two years

Spaniard Fernando Alonso has confirmed he will compete in the famous Dakar Rally in January 2020.

Alonso, 38, will be the first Formula 1 champion to race in the desert endurance event, which is to be held in Saudi Arabia for the first time.

He has been preparing with a series of rallies in deserts in the past few months and described it as "the hardest challenge ever in my career".

The two-time F1 champion will compete in a Toyota Hilux pick-up.

Alonso left F1 at the end of 2018 to pursue new challenges elsewhere in motorsport.

Primarily, he has set his sights on winning the Indianapolis 500 and becoming only the second man in history to win the so-called 'triple crown', which also includes the Le Mans 24 Hours and Monaco Grand Prix, although some regard the F1 aspect of it to be the World Championship.

He won Le Mans in 2018 and 2019 with Toyota to add to his two F1 world titles in 2005 and 2006 and his Monaco victories in 2006 and 2007.

Alonso said: "After Formula 1, I started to discover some new things in motorsport and the most iconic races.

"I started with the World Endurance Championship, we won Le Mans twice and the world championship and that feeling and that family I found inside Toyota opened my eyes for other opportunities.

"One of those opportunities was this one: Dakar. It's the hardest race on the planet."

Alonso has not announced his plans for next year's Indy 500.

His options are to race for McLaren's new Indycar team, set up after their embarrassing failure to qualify for the Indy 500 with Alonso this year, or to try to join another outfit.

The Dakar Rally was set up in 1978 and for the majority of its life was known as the Paris-Dakar after its route from the French capital through the Sahara desert to the Senegalese capital.

However, political unrest and warfare in Saharan Africa led to security concerns and it was relocated to South America from 2009.

The first Saudi running of the event will start in Jeddah on 5 January and finish outside Qiddia on 17 January.

Competitors have to navigate their own route through the deserts without notes, using only maps and GPS systems, and the dunes and other natural hazards create particular challenges even for experienced drivers.

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