Fernando Alonso says he would only return to the Dakar Rally with the aim to win, after finishing 13th on his debut in 2020.
Alonso, who has been sampling various motorsport categories after leaving Formula 1 as a two-time champion, posted a best stage finish of runner-up in a Toyota Gazoo-run Hilux in his first Dakar outing.
Though a stop for repairs on the second stage and a roll on the 10th stage cost him several hours in the general classification, Alonso was buoyed by how competitive he has proven, and believes he could take on the challenge of winning the Dakar in the future.
He says, however, that he is not yet ready to decide if and when he will return to the event.
"If I decide to enter the Dakar again, it would be with high expectations," Alonso said. "I don't want to think about it now. I'm happy with how it went. Logically, after this first experience, and having been competitive, if I race in the future, I'll try to do it to win, to add an important victory to my career.
"But there's time for that [decision]. I would have to have a more precise and detailed preparation and have the best equipment. If you like racing, spending the holidays in a car is a good option. We'll see."
While he came up short of taking a maiden stage win, Alonso felt he had come close - particularly in the final test.
"I have felt competitive almost every day. On this last stage we had a puncture, we caught Yazeed [Al Rajhi] and we still finished fourth [on the day], so I think we would have been in with a shot at winning the stage [otherwise]."
Alonso's three-time Dakar champion teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah suggested the ex-F1 star has proved a fast learner and has looked competitive enough to return with loftier ambitions in the future.
However, he once again played down Alonso's chances of conquering the Dakar on his second try.
"Look, we need to respect also the race," Al-Attiyah said. "When I came [to the Dakar], I had a lot of experience. After six, seven years, I won. Carlos [Sainz], he is a great driver in WRC. He came, he stayed seven, eight years. Sebastien Loeb, he came. He is one of the best drivers, he couldn't win.
"It takes time. We need to respect this race because this race is really not easy."
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