Toyota's Fernando Alonso says finishing is the priority on his Dakar Rally debut and that he needs to avoid any 'stupid mistakes' in the event that begins this weekend.
The two-time Formula 1 champion has undergone an extensive test programme in his Hilux - the car that Nasser Al-Attiyah used to win last year's event - and he arrives at the start of the event on the back of a third place finish in the Al Ula-Neom Rally in November.
"That result is positive and it gives me confidence," Alonso said in response to his Al Ula-Neom podium. "I am doing the Dakar to see what it's like, but even more so to finish it.
"We know that only one in four people who start this event will get to the end - that's tough. I know it will be very difficult.
"I don't think there is anything more different to Formula 1 than the Dakar, but it's an interesting challenge - certainly, impossible on paper, but I want to take it on and learn.
"And the preparation I have done the past few months has enriched me as a driver, which is one of my priorities when I confront these kinds of challenges: to be better at the end of each of them.
"I have to approach it with a certain calmness. I don't want to go to the Dakar, then quit after the second or third day because of a stupid mistake."
Alonso and three-time winner Al-Attiyah will be joined by 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers in the three-car team.
Alonso's Dakar preparation
The X-Raid Mini John Cooper Works team of 13-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel and two-time World Rally champion Carlos Sainz are likely to provide the sternest competition for the event held in Saudi Arabia for the first time.
The 2014 winner Nani Roma - who won the motorcycle class of the event 10 years earlier - switches from a Mini to join German manufacturer Borgward in its BX7 based on the marque's SUV range.
Four-time entrant Sebastien Loeb, a nine-time World Rally champion, is not contesting the event for the first time since 2015.
Loeb had driven for Peugeot but the team pulled its works' squad out of the Dakar for 2020, and Loeb joined Hyundai in the World Rally Championship shortly after the 2019 Dakar.
WRC regular Sheikh Khalid Al Qasssimi will run a Peugeot 3008DKR run by Citroen affiliate PH Sport during the event.
The 2020 Dakar Rally route
05.01 Jeddah-Al Wajh (198 miles)
06.01 Al-Wajh-Neom (228 miles)
07.01 Neom-Neom (251 miles)
08.01 Neom-Al Ula (281 miles)
09.01 Al Ula-Ha'il (219 miles)
10.01 Ha'il-Riyadh (297 miles)
11.01 Riyadh rest day
12.01 Riyadh-Wadi Al-Dawasir (339 miles)
13.01 Wadi Al-Dawasir-Wadi Al-Dawasir (294 miles)
14.01 Wadi Al-Dawasir-Haradh (257 miles)
15.01 Haradh-Shubaytah (331 miles)
16.01 Shubaytah-Haradh (230 miles)
17.01 Haradh-Qiddiya (232 miles)
Crew hospitalized before Dakar even starts
Martin Kolomy somersaulted his Ford Raptor 4x4 in shakedown before the Dakar had started, and was hospitalised with a cracked second and third vertebra.
Kolomy - who usually competes in the Truck class and is the team-mate of former Junior World Rally champion Martin Prokop - rolled his M-P Sports Ford Raptor 4x4 end-over-end in the sand dunes during a shakedown run.
The car landed back on its wheels, with its nose wedged firmly against a dune.
One of the event's medical helicopters quickly arrived at the scene of the crash.
They airlifted Kolomy, immobilized on a stretcher, directly to hospital after he complained about back pain.
Co-driver Jiri Stross was also transferred there for a check-up.
Kolomy tweeted from hospital: "Compressed 3rd vertebra and 2nd cracked. Now they're wondering what to do with me! But I'll be fine. Thanks to everyone for the support messages... they make it a lot better."
Prokop said of the incident: "It was one of the more treacherous places on Dakar, but they don't look so dangerous from the outside: Long straight and [a] jump at the end.
"The video I saw, [the car] seemed to slow down a bit and then jumped right on the nose."
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