Fernando Alonso says his “dream” debut in the Dakar Rally “keeps getting better and better” after finishing second on the latest stage in Saudi Arabia.

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso and co-driver Marc Coma recorded their best finish so far in Stage 8, finishing just four minutes behind stage winner Mathieu Serradori at Wadi ad-Dawasir.

The result continued Alonso’s steady climb back through the field after losing more than two hours due to car damage on the second stage. The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver now sits 13th overall, and is less than five minutes off a place in the top 10.

“It was an unbelievable stage! To be competitive on one of these long stages, with dunes and everything, and to be fighting for the victory, was amazing,” Alonso said.

“It’s hard to believe that I got into a rally car for the first time just a couple of months ago, and here I am fighting with the top guys.

“The Dakar dream keeps getting better and better; and there wasn’t a downside in any of the last few stages, as we keep climbing in the positions. Top 7, then Top 5 and now second, so we really can’t ask anything more from the Toyota Hilux, the team or from Marc.

“I think we all have good momentum now and I just want to keep going.”

Alonso entered his first Dakar rally looking for an “enriching experience” as part of his ongoing plans to sample and compete in various different series around the world since quitting F1 at the end of 2018.