Rallying-Alonso teams up with Dakar veteran Coma in South Africa

Sept 13 (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso has teamed up with five-times Dakar Rally winner Marc Coma as the double Formula One world champion prepares for a likely entry in the Saudi-hosted event next January with Toyota.

The two Spaniards have been training together in Namibia and Poland and this weekend are competing in the Lichtenburg 400, a round of the South African cross country series.

Alonso has yet to confirm he will enter the 2020 Dakar, regarded as the world’s toughest motorsport challenge which is moving to the deserts of Saudi Arabia for the first time, but it looks increasingly likely.

Coma, a winner in the motorcycle category, stood down as Dakar sporting director in 2018 and is acting as Alonso’s co-driver.

He first competed in the Dakar in 2002, winning with KTM, before the event switched from Africa to South America for safety reasons.

“Working with Marc has been fantastic. I’ve been able to learn so much from him about rally raid thanks to his wealth of knowledge and experience,” said Alonso in a Toyota statement.

“Marc and I are getting along very well and we are working effectively as a unit. I’m looking forward to training in a competition environment for the first time which will be very different to our private tests.”

Alonso, a two-times Le Mans 24 Hours winner and world endurance champion, is also seeking to win the Indianapolis 500 to complete the so-called Triple Crown of Motorsport.

The 38-year-old left Formula One last year. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)