Alonso keen to make mark in Dakar Rally

Fernando Alonso: " I am conscious of the challenge I have in front of me."

Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso says caution is in order for his first off-road experience at the famed Dakar Rally but he will attack "at the first opportunity".

When the world's 'most gruelling race' begins in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the 38-year-old Spaniard will be driving a Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux 4x4, the same vehicle that won the 2019 event.

His approach for the first few days will be conservative but not so much that he falls out of the top 10 in the general classification, Alonso said during a media roundtable in Jiddah on Friday.

"Two days from starting a Dakar without ever before having done an off-road race, I am conscious of the challenge I have in front of me, and which many people would never consider trying," he said.

"It's going to be two weeks of experiences. Every day, what Marc (Coma, his navigator) and I experience inside the car will be enough to practically write a book. At the same time, I am ready to enjoy it."

Regarding strategy, Alonso said he would avoid "unnecessary risks" in the first few stages, while taking care to remain at least in the top 15.

"You have to not take risks but also not drive very slow. A good beginning would help build confidence to continue," he said.

With victories in the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Alonso needs only to win the Indianapolis 500 to become the second driver - after Brit Graham Hill - to achieve the triple crown of motor racing.

If he can win the Dakar Rally, he will be considered one of the best all-around drivers ever.

The 2020 edition will cover nearly 8000 kilometres from Jiddah to Qiddiyah, near Riyadh.