Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso says he does not feel ready to win the Dakar Rally at the first attempt.

Alonso, who has twice won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and claimed a maiden sportscar title in the LMP1 World Endurance Championship since walking away from F1 at the end of 2018, is preparing for his first Dakar appearance at next month’s event in Saudi Arabia.

In November, Alonso achieved his first cross-country rallying podium finish during his third outing with Toyota ahead of his Dakar debut, but the Spaniard insists he will head to Jeddah with his “feet on the ground”.

Asked if he feels ready for Dakar at the 2019 FIA prize giving gala, Alonso replied: “If I go there to enjoy the experience, then yes. If I go there to make the most of it, yes.

“If I think in terms of winning Dakar, I don’t feel ready. I’m perfectly aware of my lack of experience.

“I think in other races that I attempt in Indy 500, or Le Mans or Daytona, I felt quite competitive in a level that I could fight for victory. In Dakar I don’t think I am at that level and I need to be with the feet on the ground.

“But I will play a different strategy. I will not be the fastest but hopefully I will be in a good position at the end.”

Alonso admitted he is finding the unique challenge of driving of different terrain “quite difficult” to adapt to, having spent his entire career in circuit racing.

“The reading of the terrain and the unknown that you are facing every kilometre, while in the circuit everything is optimised lap after the lap,” he explained.

“The distance, we are used to one and a half hours of concentration [in F1] where you can even relax on the straights.

“In Dakar, every metre is new and you need to pay attention that is on another level for eight or nine hours every day, so it’s quite difficult to adapt.”

 

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