Off to a tough start on the first day of the second half of the rally. Unfortunately, Car 2 misses the course. Car 1 falls back to 3rd place in the Under 10-liter category.
The Dakar Rally 2011 kicked off its second half on January 9th. Contestants competed on a course that headed southward from Arica, a town in the northern most area of Chile, to Antofagasta. Although the SS for this day was originally scheduled to comprise a first section extending 273 km in the Atacama Desert, then a 151-km neutral section, which would then be followed by a second section of 207 km for a total of 611 km (631 km for Bikes category), the organizers decided to cancel the second section, and instead set up a link route to Antofagasta at the end of the first section. The uncanceled first section would take contestants in the opposite direction that they traveled on the 7th from Iquique to Arica, with some sections being the exactly the same. This was a challenging day with dusty pistes and fesh-fesh that stretched out for miles, as well as large dunes.
Of the two HINO 500 Series trucks entered in the Series Production Trucks category by HINO TEAM SUGAWARA, Car 1 piloted by Yoshimasa Sugawara and Hiroyuki Sugiura, navigated courses that were barely wide enough for trucks and overcame many navigation challenges to come in at stage rankings of 13th, 3rd, and 2nd places in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories, respectively. Meanwhile, Car 2 piloted by Teruhito Sugawara and Seiichi Suzuki, missed a course at the entrance to the dune area between checkpoints 1 and 2, and lost about 40 minutes of time. After a making up for a good part of this delay at a brisk pace, and despite taking a slight delay when they got stuck at the top of a dune towards the end of the section, Car 2 came in at stage rankings of 18th, 5th, and 3rd places in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories, respectively, for this SS. However, J. Elfrink (Mercedes-Benz Axor) of the Netherlands, a 1st place contender in the Series Production Trucks and Under 10-liter categories, finished the SS with a time that was 23m 08s quicker than Car 1, bringing them ahead of Car 1 in overall rankings. While Car 2's overall rankings of 11th, 2nd, and 1st places in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories remain unchanged, Car 1 has fallen back to the rankings of 14th, 4th, and 3rd places in these respective categories.
Tomorrow, January 10th, contestants face a long SS stretching 508 km on a course leading to Copiapo, the central town of the Atacama Desert. The crew and mechanics at the bivouac in Antofagasta were motivated to make full use of the characteristics of the lightweight HINO 500 Series trucks to take back their losses in the challenging stages where they will again be facing sand dunes.
Yoshimasa Sugawara: We were able to complete today's dune stage in good form by driving around dunes at times instead of tackling them head on. But we were plagued with a series of unfortunate events such as hitting our right headlight on the road as we were coming down a dune, and our right-front wheel towing out. While Mr. Elfrink has passed us in rankings, I would like to make up for this in the dune stages tomorrow and the days that follow.
Hiroyuki Sugiura: I hit my forehead on the navigation panel during the ups and downs on the dunes. It's just a minor injury. There were so many tread tracks overlapping on the course making navigation very difficult.
Teruhito Sugawara: We couldn't find the entrance where we needed to match our CAP headings (compass directions expressed digitally) before entering the dunes, and we lost time, having to drive around in circles three times in the same spot. Towards the end, the truck got stuck on its belly at the top of a dune. There was a car stuck there too, so we assisted them and got their car out first. They were then able to pull us out, and we were able to get out in short order as well. In any case, it was a tough day.
Seiichi Suzuki: The dunes were not as challenging as I had thought, but the tread tracks that vehicles made on the 7th and 6th were all over the place, making navigation quite difficult. We didn't have any major problems with the truck, but the noise from the air conditioner blower was so intense, it would get in the way of our communication at times.