We feared Alonso’s Dakar was over, admits co-driver Coma

Fernando Alonso’s co-driver Marc Coma admits he thought their Dakar Rally “was over” when a wheel was ripped from their Toyota Hilux on Monday’s second stage and was left “30 meters behind us” in the desert.

Alonso had been enjoying a “just perfect” run until that point of the stage, but admits he was blinded by dust from two competitors ahead when he “hit a hole”. The impact tore off the left-front wheel, which the duo managed to repair on the spot, but lost over two hours in doing so.

“The moment we tore off the left front wheel it looked bad,” said Coma, who has won the Dakar five times on motorbikes. “We even thought our rally was over there. Luckily everything [we repaired] has been fitting [back together] well, without front brakes, and with a spare front suspension triangle that is less strong, which meant we had to slow down.”

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Coma further explained: “After 50km we caught the car that started in front of us, and at that moment its dust was combined with that of a motorcycle, which deprived us of vision. We hit a ditch, and that made us lose the wheel.

“When we tore off the wheel, it remained 30 meters behind us. We had to change the suspension triangle, the shield, the steering wheel arm... We worked out there for two hours, and in the end we were able to restart.

“It was a day that we could’ve gone out of the rally, but we were able to save it and we’re happy. We had to put everything from our side, because if we didn't we would leave right there. We rowed together, and we have achieved it.”

Although Alonso finished 63rd on Monday, his Gazoo Racing team filed a repositioning request as per the regulations, and he has been cleared to start 46 places higher on the road – in 17th position among the regular car contenders.

This will reduce the amount of dust he’d otherwise have had to contend with.

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