Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso suffered a scare in stage 10 of the Dakar Rally after rolling his car.
The accident happened just two kilometres into the 534km stage. Alonso approached a sand dune at an awkward angle, launching his Toyota Hilux into the air, causing it to roll twice before coming to a stop on the flat.
While neither Alonso nor his co-driver Marc Coma were hurt, the damage caused to the car cost the pair 68 minutes in lost time. The pair had to knock out the car’s windscreen before continuing the stage. They currently sit 14th in the standings.
Alonso had said earlier in the rally that he had surpassed “all kinds of personal goals” on his Dakar debut.
Concern for the wellbeing of the two drivers was heightened after one competitor, motorcyclist Paulo Goncalves, died from injuries sustained during a crash on the seventh stage of the rally.
This year’s rally is being held in Saudi Arabia for the first time. The rally had been held in Europe and Africa from 1979 to 2007, but after the cancelled 2008 rally following security concerns, it moved to South America in 2009.
The race took place there until 2019, but has now moved to the Middle East for the first time in its history.
Carlos Sainz, father of Alonso’s McLaren replacement Carlos Sainz Jr., leads the 43-team field with two stages left to compete.
Sainz, 57, is a two-time World Rally champion and has also previously won the Dakar Rally twice, in 2010 and 2018.
After a disappointing few years with McLaren, Alonso stepped away from Formula One in 2018.
Alonso had developed an interest in Endurance racing toward the end of his Formula One career, competing in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship, winning both with Toyota.
The Spaniard has since won Le Mans for a second time in 2019, before taking on Dakar, again competing for Toyota.
Alonso has made clear his desire to win motorsport’s Triple Crown, a title bestowed on those who have taken victories at the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula One, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.
He had made a bid to represent McLaren at the Indy500 in 2019, but missed out on the final qualifying spot after his average speed was 0.019mph too slow.
Rumours have been circulating of a return to Formula One for Alonso in 2021, in no small part because Alonso has continued to flirt with the idea, saying a return “will be on the table”.
Speaking of Charles Leclerc’s recently signed new contract with Ferrari, Alonso said: “I didn’t talk to them [Ferrari]. My time at Ferrari was beautiful, but I don’t think this is the right time to return.
“It is clear that they are betting on Leclerc for the future. Looking at 2021 we have to wait and see who’s competitive and maybe Ferrari is not one of the favourites.”