HINO TEAM SUGAWARA finishes in 6th place in the trucks category. Ranked in the top ten for the first time in five years against large-vehicle rivals.
Jan 20, 2024
On January 19, the Dakar Rally 2024 reached its final stage, and the SS (competition section) took place on a 174km loop-shaped course starting from Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. After completing the SS, the participants returned to the bivouac via a 99km liaison, where the goal ceremony was held to conclude the 15-day rally.
The course for this day's SS consisted mainly of ruts in the sand. While there were sections where they could drive at high speeds, there were also trial sections that were difficult to drive, and places where there were stones hidden in the sand and the risk of punctures was high. In the final phase, the course surface changed and they ended up on a course along the coast of the Red Sea to reach the finish line.
The HINO TEAM SUGAWARA's "HINO 600 series" piloted by Teruhito Sugawara, Hirokazu Somemiya, and Yuji Mochizuki seemed to be well at the start of the SS. However, an air leak problem caused a delay of approximately 10 minutes, and they finished in 16th place in the trucks category. With this result, the Hino team was confirmed to be in 6th place in the trucks category in cumulative rankings. It was the first time in five years that the team finished in the top 10, since 2019. (9th in the trucks category in 2019.)
The goal ceremony was held on the podium set up along the coast in Yanbu. It was around 4:30 when the Hino TEAM SUGAWARA was awarded. The drivers and navigators exchanged a firm handshake on the podium with Makoto Wakimura, CTO of Hino Motors, who had come from Japan to encourage them, and praised each other for their good performance in the tough rally with the mechanics and team staff.
Due to the rule changes regarding hybrid trucks by the organizers, the HINO TEAM SUGAWARA had entered the competition without installing the hybrid system, which they had been testing for two years. Therefore, they revised the final reduction ratio and adopted a shallower (higher) gear ratio. This increased the range of vehicle speeds that could be driven in the low range of the sub-transmission built into the transfer, and at the same time, since the gear ratio was crossed in the low range compared to the high range, the gears connected better on surfaces with high driving resistance, such as over sand dunes. As a result, acceleration performance in the medium and low speed range had been improved. Although fuel efficiency deteriorated slightly due to frequent use of high engine revolutions, driving performance clearly improved and the team were able to achieve excellent results on the sand dune stages. Additionally, by not installing a 400kg hybrid system, the vehicle body was made lighter and the load on the drivetrain was reduced. These improvements gave the Hino 600 series the potential to compete on par with its large-vehicle rivals, reduced the frequency of stops due to trouble, and succeeded in leading the team to a high ranking.
Makoto Wakimura, CTO, Hino Motors:
I'm glad I visited the race site and was able to motivate everyone. As a result of everyone's efforts, we were able to achieve a great 6th place, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. We would like to continue this activity in the future.
During the SS, the air piping of the CTIS (tire air pressure regulator) came off and we were forced to stop for about 10 minutes to repair it. The ranking results are exactly what we were originally aiming for. It was unfortunate that we had fuel trouble in the Empty Quarter, but after fixing it, we were able to drive well.
Through this year's competition, I felt that if the vehicle, people involved, and teamwork work together, the Hino team can aim for fifth place overall in the current trucks category. I don't usually navigate cross-country rallies, so I always used to be nervous during the early stages, but I'm okay now.
We had improved the engine cooling system of this year's vehicle, which had trouble last time. The engine was able to be controlled by switching between 750PS and 800PS output specifications, which increased the frequency of using the high output specification, and I think it helped save time.
I'm overwhelmed with emotion to have reached the goal line. When I first came to Dakar, I was a mechanic of Hino Motors. This is my fifth time, and as a manager, I believe that I was able to contribute in some small way to helping the mechanics work comfortably.
I am glad that we had fewer problems this year. We had replaced the transfer with a broken high side of the sub-transmission and the AT, in the first half of the race, so there wasn't much work to be done on the rest day at the halfway point of the race. The day before yesterday, we replaced the AT for the second time and returned it to the original one, and it seemed to be better.
The rally ended today, and I still don't feel like it's over, but I feel a little sad. I think that by experiencing the Dakar Rally scene, I understood what I should do now and what I have not been able to do yet.
We were able to finish in a good position and our efforts were worth it. Being at the Dakar Rally scene was tiring but fun.
It was a tough two weeks, but every day was fun and fulfilling. I'm glad that the AT and transfer, which had been replaced early due to problems, were fine. And I'm happy that we got a good ranking.
This time, my role was as a mechanic leader. And I learned a lot from watching the work of the sales company mechanics who had been dispatched for the first time in three years, and listening to their lectures.
This time too, I was in charge of driving the support truck. We started towing trailers with truck this year, and although I had gotten my towing license two years ago, it was difficult to drive in reverse.
I am relieved that we were able to complete the race successfully. The mechanics from the sales company worked hard as a team, and I think they were a great source of strength for the team.
Last year it rained and everyone had a hard time, but this year's competition was lucky that it didn't rain. I'm glad that we were able to cross the finish line successfully.