Hino Team Sugawara faces a very tough challenge in the fight for honours in the truck category of the 2012 Dakar Rally which takes place in South America from January 1-15. The entry limit of 75 trucks was reached two months before the closing date of November 1.
Hino will be aiming for its 21st consecutive finish in this gruelling rally-raid which will start in the Argentinean coastal resort of Mar del Plata and finish in Lima, Peru, after passing through Chile, with a rest day in Copiapo, the town made famous by the rescue last year of miners trapped by a cave-in accident.
The two specially prepared four-wheel drive Hino 500 trucks will face up to a field dominated by Mercedes-Benz and MAN (16 entries each). The remainder of the entries are: Ginaf and DAF (9 entries each), Iveco (6), Kamaz and Tatra (5 each), Renault (3), Liaz and MAZ (2 each).
Hino Team Sugawara have built a special racing truck for Teruhito Sugawara (39) and his co-driver Seiichi Suzuki (50) which will compete against the so-called “monster trucks” in the battle for overall victory. This is the first all-new racing truck in eight years since the last renewal in 2004.
Previously Hino has concentrated on winning the class for series production trucks with engines of less than 10-litres capacity, but now the target has been set much higher.
The latest truck features a new chassis; the engine has been moved backwards and located lower in the chassis to improve weigh distribution, while brakes and the cooling system have been improved. A shorter cab and a load area covered by a lightweight tarpaulin contribute to the latest truck weighing 250kg less than its predecessor.
The second Hino, to be driven by Teruhito Sugawara’s 70-year old father, Yoshimasa, is basically the same one that Teruhito used to score his third successive under 10-litre class victory in January this year. However, it has also been lightened by 200kg and has improved cooling as this is an area of performance that is extremely important given the fine dust of the sand dunes and very high temperatures encountered.
Yoshimasa Sugawara is the most experienced Dakar competitor in the world, having competed in 28 of these races from 1983 to 2011, excluding 2008 when the race was cancelled due to the threat of terrorism.His co-driver this year will be Hiroyuki Sugiura (27).
Winning the Dakar will not be uncharted territory for the leading Japanese truck manufacturer though as it was the first and until now the only manufacturer to have made a clean sweep of the first three places in this famous event, which is now being staged for the 34th time. This success was achieved by Hino in 1997 when the rally-raid went from Dakar to Agades and back to Dakar.
The 2012 Dakar Rally will mark the fourth time that the event has been staged in South America following the threat of terrorist attacks causing the cancellation of the 2008 Dakar, which was scheduled to be run in Africa.
During the 15 days of the race the contestants will cover a route of more than 9 000km. It will include five racing stages in Argentina, a crossing of the Andes Mountains, five stages in Chile, including crossing the Atacama Desert, before a rest day in Chile on January 8. Then, for the first time the famous endurance rally-raid enters Peru for four racing stages and a ceremonial finish in Lima.