Fernando Alonso still confident of ‘magical’ Dakar Rally stage win in Saudi Arabia despite setbacks

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Fernando Alonso speaks to the press after completing Stage 2 of the Dakar Rally on Monday in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 08 January 2020

Fernando Alonso still confident of ‘magical’ Dakar Rally stage win in Saudi Arabia despite setbacks

  • Confidence was raised when he and co-driver Marc Coma finished fifth in Stage 3
  • Alonso’s pace suggests he might well have challenged nearer the top of the classification

NEOM: Former Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso is confident he can still claim what he said would be a “magical” maiden stage win at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, he said on Tuesday.

The Spaniard’s chances of challenging for the outright victory took a dent when he lost more than two hours to suspension and wheel repairs during Stage 2.

But confidence was raised when he and co-driver Marc Coma finished fifth in Stage 3, only six minutes behind winner Carlos Saint, something Alonso called “very positive,” according to a report from website motorsport.com.

“We had a stage without setbacks, with good visibility — even going back (toward Neom), every car that we were catching had a flat tire or was lost,” Alonso told the website.

“We had a track without cars and without dust. The only setback was in the last part, that we got lost for a bit in a river, we could not find the way.

“(Otherwise) it was a good day that left a good taste.

“Monday was a surprise. The result was negative and losing those hours was not expected, but the sensations were good yesterday and today also, I feel comfortable with the car.

“Seven months ago I had never climbed onto a dune with a car, now to be able to be again among the first four-five for the second consecutive day is a positive note.

“But I always want a little more and hopefully I can take advantage of the good starting position tomorrow or in the next few days to try something else and be among the first three or hopefully win a stage, which would be magical,” he added.

Without the delay on Monday, Alonso’s pace suggests he might well have challenged nearer the top of the classification, but the former Renault, McLaren and Ferrari driver is remaining upbeat.

“We’ve only been here for three days and there’s going to be a lot more drama than we’ve experienced.

“It happened to me yesterday, (Tuesday) we saw (Khalid) Al-Qassimi’s Peugeot that was in pieces, and many more things will happen to many people.

“Let’s hope that the minimum possible will happen to us and that we will reach stage 12 and get the whole experience.

“But if I can find a good pace and visibility on some stage, I hope to make the top three or even get a dream stage win. It seems impossible, but I have more confidence after these two stages,” he added.


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”