Japanese truck manufacturer Hino has already started its preparations for the 2015 Dakar Rally. The company is once again teaming up with Team Sugawara to enter two, four-wheel drive Hino 500-Series trucks in the event which will take place in South America from January 4-17.
Hino has by far the best reliability record of any participating manufacturer in this gruelling annual event, with 23 consecutive finishes since entering for the first time in 1991. This year both trucks again completed the course and finished 1-2 in the category for trucks with engines of less than 10 litres \capacity.
Next year the team will not only be looking for a sixth successive win in the under 10-litre category, but will also be aiming for a high position in the overall classification as both racing trucks will use the more powerful nine-litre A09C engine. This year one truck used this power unit and the second truck was powered by the 8-litre J08C engine.
The drivers of the Hinos will again be the father and son combination of Yoshimasa and Teruhito Sugawara, with the 73-year-old Yoshimasa set to start his 33rd Dakar Rally. He is one of the few people to have taken part in this event on a motorcycle, quad and in a car before switching to a Hino truck in 1991.
The technical team is currently rebuilding Truck No. 1 which was driven by Yoshimasa in the 2014 Dakar Rally. A number of improvements will be incorporated to make it even more competitive. This truck will compete in the Mongolia Rally in August as a shakedown test for the 2015 Dakar Rally.
Meanwhile Teruhito, who will be entering for the 17th year, will have a brand new truck. It will use a narrower, standard width cab to improve aerodynamics. It will also be lighter but stronger with upgraded suspension, The A09C engines will have more power and torque for the 2015 rally.
A screening process will start soon to identify technicians from Hino dealerships in Japan to join the support team for the 2015 event.
The 2015 Dakar Rally will start and finish in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the route will be a loop that traverses Bolivia and Chile as was the case this year.
Each racing category – motorcycles, quads, cars and trucks – will have to tackle a two-day marathon stage during the event. This will mean no assistance from the team mechanics or support crew at the overnight stop. All tools and parts required for the servicing must be carried in the truck and the crew must do the work.
An indication of the high interest among the Japanese in the Dakar Rally is that a media briefing by the organisers of the 2015 event attracted more than 80 people in Tokyo recently. Not only was Hino Team Sugawara present, but so was South African Giniel de Villiers who drives a Hilux for the Toyota Imperial Team in the Dakar.
De Villiers, who has been the highest placed driver of a Japanese vehicle in the Dakar Rally for the past several years, was invited by the event organisers to attend the Japanese leg of their promotional tour for the 2015 event to encourage more Japanese participation the event.