AL WAJH, Saudi Arabia – Dakar Rally debutant Fernando Alonso avoided any first stage pitfalls as the 2020 edition of motorsport’s gruelling 7,500 kilometre marathon began in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Alonso, trying to make history as the first Formula One champion to win the event, completed the drive from Jeddah to Al Wajh in his Toyota in 11th place.
The 38-year-old Spaniard, with five-time Dakar bike champion Marc Coma navigating, was over quarter of an hour behind surprise stage winner Vaidotas Zala.
The Lithuanian led home a 1-2-3 for Mini, 2mins 14sec clear of teammates Stephane Peterhansel, the 13-time Dakar champion, and Carlos Sainz.
Last year’s winner Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for over 200km but he had to settle for fourth place after late mechanical problems with his Toyota.
Defending motorbike champion Toby Price won Sunday’s first bike stage.
The 32-year-old Australian KTM rider completed the 752km route over two minutes clear of American Ricky Brabec on a Honda with Austrian Matthias Walkner on another KTM in third.