Rude awakening for Fernando Alonso in SA offroad race
F1 star rolls his Hilux en route to 16th place but impresses with his pace in preparation for Dakar 2020
Former F1 champion Fernando Alonso and his navigator Marc Coma had a tough introduction to the rigours of offroad racing at the Lichtenburg 400 in SA on September 13-14.
Following recent training sessions in Namibia and Poland, Alonso’s participation in the Lichtenburg round of SA’s national Cross Country offroad series continued the F1 star’s preparation to possibly compete in the 2020 Dakar Rally.
It gave the pair seat time in the Dakar-spec Gazoo Racing Hilux and it all started off well during the Prologue on September 13 where Alonso posted the third-fastest time overall.
However he rolled the Hilux on day two, losing time to remove the broken windscreen before he and Coma continued, wearing goggles to keep the dust out.
They made it to the end of the 190km first loop and posted competitive times. However, a bird strike five kilometres into the second loop resulted in a second broken windscreen and they were eventually classified 16th.
The race was won by Dakar old-hand Giniel de Villiers and his navigator Dennis Murphy, ahead of their Gazoo Hilux team-mates Henk Lategan and navigator Brett Cummings — enough to win the latter the 2019 SA Cross Country Series title with one round remaining.
The next challenge for Fernando and Marc will be the Rally of Morocco next month.
Glyn Hall, Team Principal said: “We certainly proved this weekend that Fernando has the speed and Marc has the ability to co-drive in the Hilux. Despite the ups and downs, this weekend was an invaluable experience for the crew. We are fast-tracking one of the best racing drivers the world has ever seen into a discipline he has never experienced before.
“With just five months to prepare for one of the toughest races in motorsport, we have an incredible task ahead of us. In the Prologue, we saw that Fernando can keep up with the best drivers in SA, who are as good as they come in the world. Competing at this level in terms of speed, and with such a steep learning curve, we expected small setbacks along the way. This is exactly the kind of experience they need to have so it doesn’t come as a surprise if it happens during the big race.”
Alonso said: “Every time we go in the car we learn something and we get more and more familiar with the Hilux. Unfortunately, today was a little bit of a nightmare for us. [After the bird strike] it was nearly 200km with one hand on the windscreen and the other on the steering wheel. It wasn’t the best day for us, but we were able to get more kilometres in the Hilux and it’s good to experience these things before we get to more important races.”
Marquez extends lead
Honda's Marc Marquez took another stride towards a sixth MotoGP title by seizing victory in a last-lap duel at the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Spaniard moved 93 points clear at the top of the standings with six races remaining after denying French Petronas Yamaha rookie Fabio Quartararo a first top-flight victory at Misano's Marco Simoncelli circuit.
Yamaha's Maverick Vinales finished third, ahead of his team-mate Valentino Rossi.
Marquez's closest championship rival Andrea Dovizioso, on a Ducati, was only sixth. Marquez now has 275 points to the Italian's 182.
SA’s Brad Binder was sixth in the Moto2 race, and is fifth in the championship.
Knysana Hillclimb to get neutral title sponsor
The organisers of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb have announced that the event will in future be more inclusive of other motor vehicle brands.
This change in strategy sees the Knysna Speed Festival, as owners and organisers of of the annual motorsport lifestyle event, bringing on board a neutral nonvehicle brand to take up the title sponsorship.
It clears the way for more vehicle brands to have a higher profile in the event, which wasn’t possible with Jaguar as title sponsor.
“We have enjoyed an incredible six-year journey with Jaguar as our title sponsor and we can’t thank the team at Jaguar enough for their support, enthusiasm and partnership over the years,” says Ian Shrosbree, MD of Knysna Speed Festival.
IN 2019’S EDITION OF THE HILLCLIMB MORE THAN 17,200 PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE GLOBE WENT THROUGH THE GATE
While the Simola Hillclimb will welcome all brands to the event from 2020, it has structured a top tier manufacturer partnership package that will focus on five brands that will enjoy access to live stream branding, track branding, hospitality, track time, VIP runs, exhibition space and race entries.
This year’s 10th edition of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb saw over 17,200 people from around the globe come through the gate. Participants from the US, UK and Germany participated alongside local drivers.
The 2020 Simola Hillclimb will take place from May 7-10 with the entry process and ticket sales opening next month.