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.