New Mechanic Sub-Leader for Dakar Rally 2018 Team.
— For me, this will be a year of taking on all the challenges that come my way. I would like to do my best to give back what I have received from family and colleagues who encouraged me —
Preparations for Dakar Rally 2018 are well underway at HINO TEAM SUGAWARA. We spoke with the team’s new mechanic sub-leader, Mr. Okabe from Hino Motors, Ltd., on his commitments as sub-leader as well as other issues. Mr. Okabe, who was from the Vehicle Planning & Production Engineering Division at Hino Motors, Ltd., succeeds previous sub-leader Mr. Nakamura.
— To start off, please give us a brief outline of your personal history.
I enrolled in the Hino Technical Skills Academy in 1992 where I spent three years studying automobile servicing. I then joined Hino Motors, Ltd. where I was assigned to the Heavy-Duty Prototype Engineering Section at the Prototyping Dept. (currently the Vehicle Section, Vehicle Planning & Production Engineering Div.), and worked on prototype modifications. When the Vehicle Planning & Production Engineering Div. launched a production line for producing bonnet trucks for the North American market, I had the opportunity to take part in operations including preparations for production and work on production at lines at the Hino plant, as well as taking part in starting up a North American plant. I then worked for seven years in an outfitting group that was responsible for assembling interior and exterior trims for prototype cabs on Toyota-commissioned vehicles and Hino trucks. After that, I was transferred back to the modification section.
— Given your history, what can you tell us about how you were chosen as mechanic sub-leader to join the Dakar Rally team?
Actually, my superior, the section chief, had mentioned this to me two years ago, but I had to turn that offer down due to family circumstances.
When I heard from him again this year, I did tell him that I would like to join the Dakar Rally team, but I also let him know that I had my concerns about joining.
When I was at the modification section, we built Dakar Rally trucks under the direction of my superior. He was an amazing individual with excellent knowledge and skills, as well as great leadership. He was great at managing the design team and members on the site, and despite the fact that rally trucks are super-specialized machines, we were able to deliver right on time thanks to his leadership.
Since I had this previous experience, I voiced my concerns about whether I would be able to make a meaningful contribution to the rally. He had given me lots of support since my assignment to this section. And since he was very scrupulous about our work, there were many times that I would fall short and he would give me a lecture about it (laughs). But this time around, he listened to all the concerns that I had about the rally and gave me a gentle nudge forwards. When I decided to join the team, he shook my hand saying, “Give it all you’ve got!” To tell you the truth, I was so happy that it almost brought me to tears. But that’s a secret! I decided to join the rally team because I wanted to give back what I had received from my colleagues and superiors who sent me out with lots of encouragement. I decided to take on the challenge of how much I can make use of the experience, knowledge, and skills I have acquired over the years to contribute to the Dakar Rally team, just as my superior did.
— How did your family and acquaintances respond to your decision to join the Dakar Rally team?
My wife was very encouraging and told me that I should go if that’s what I felt I wanted to do, and that it would be a good experience because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Our kids told me that they would feel a bit lonely with me being away, but they thought that joining a rally team was really cool and encouraged me to give it my best.
— Have you received any advice from Mr. Nakamura, the previous mechanic sub-leader?
He was kind enough to give me a hand-over briefing before the startup of this year’s Dakar Rally operations. That said, there have been things that I couldn’t foresee until the work actually started, so I still call him up for advice when things comes up. I’d been closely watching what Mr. Nakamura was doing over the last couple of years as a supporting member for building Dakar Rally trucks, so I would like to continue with what has worked well for the team so far, and if I see things that I feel would work even better, I would like to incorporate those to help improve our performance.
— Some people may wonder what you do when the actual Dakar Rally is not on. What are you doing at the moment?
We started up our operations for Dakar Rally 2018 in April. This year, we are scheduled to race in two rallies as our real-world testing grounds—the Silk Way Rally in July and Rally Mongolia in August. Right now, we are preparing and shipping out the parts for transport, as well as servicing and building the truck.
— One of the action guidelines for Hino Motors employees is the Hino spirit*. What aspect of the Hino spirit do you hold close to your heart in taking part in the Dakar Rally?
For Mr. Nakamura, my predecessor, it was emphasis on teamwork and working together as a coherent team. For me it is the spirit of taking on challenges and teamwork. Mr. Ichihashi, the president of our company, has also earmarked this year as the time to take on challenges, so I am committed to overcoming all the challenges that come our way through teamwork, and make this rally an event that we will not regret.
* A phrase that exemplifies the values and commitments that Hino employees are expected to uphold in their work. This is made up of our “vision” which equates to our passion, the spirit of taking on challenges, and our contribution, as well as our “execution”, which equates to our wisdom and drive to make improvements, and our speed and teamwork.
— What are some of the challenges that you will be taking on in the Dakar Rally?
I will be focusing on building durable trucks that are easier to service based on the experience, knowledge, and skills that I have acquired in the modification section, and aim for a 5th place finish or higher in overall rankings.
— Last year, you joined the team for the real-world testing at the Silk Way Rally in preparation for the Dakar Rally, so you have experience of what a rally is like. How do you see yourself building on this experience?
The Silk Way Rally last year was the first real rally experience for me, and there were many areas where I wasn’t sure what to do, which resulted in some lost time. This year, I hope to build on that experience so that I can perform more efficiently as a team member under the rather confined conditions of the rally, and make sure that all the documentation is updated, revised and distributed to all team members.
— In closing, can you tell us about your determination as the team’s new mechanic sub-leader?
In terms of age, this year will be a crossroads for me as I will be turning 40, so I see it as a time for taking on challenges. I wouldn’t be here, neither would I be offered this opportunity if it weren’t for the encouragement from the people around me, so I will be doing my best to give back what I have generously received from people at the academy and my company. I would like to thank everyone who will be watching the Dakar Rally for sending their support our way!