Braving the heat and heavy sand, the team brilliantly overcomes Fiambala.
Achieves one-two rankings in the Series Production Trucks and Under 10-liter categories.
The Dakar Rally 2011 has entered its final stages. On January 12th, contestants crossed the Andes mountains again, this time from Chile into Argentina. After crossing the border on a 686-km link route that lead from Copiapo to Chilecito, contestants faced a 176-km SS in the Fiambala Desert. This was followed by a 183-km link route to the bivouac in Chilecito located in the southern part of the Fiambala Desert. At a total of 862 km, this was the longest route in this year's rally. While the Fiambala Desert is situated in highlands ranging between 1400 m and 2400 m above sea level, temperatures can reach 45C during the day. The course featured miles of road surfaces that caused considerable driving resistance including dunes, waji (dry riverbeds), and fesh-fesh (fine powdery sand). For this reason, rallies held in years past have seen scores of vehicles overheating from rising coolant and oil temperatures, making this an extremely tough stage for crew and vehicle.
The two HINO 500 Series fielded by HINO TEAM SUGAWARA boldly took on the challenge of this SS. Teruhito Sugawara and Seiichi Suzuki, who piloted Car 2, while starting 11th in line, skillfully drove around dunes soon after the start of the SS to improve their position to 7th by the time they reached check point 2. The crew maintained their position till the end of the SS, coming in at 7th, 1st, and 1st places in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories, respectively, overtaking a number of larger trucks in the modified category in the process. Car 1 piloted by Yoshimasa Sugawara and Hiroyuki Sugiura started at 15th, and also improved their position to 14th at check point 2, to complete the SS at 16th, 3rd, and 2nd places in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories, respectively. With these results (while preliminary), Car 2 achieved overall rankings of 9th, 1st, and 1st places in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories, respectively. And Car 1 improved its rankings to 11th, 2nd, and 2nd places in these respective categories. Car 2 brilliantly made it into single-digit rankings in all categories, and the team has now achieved one-two rankings in the Series Production Truck category.
Tomorrow, contestants will drive from Chilecito to San Juan. While there will be no dunes along this route, the long 622-km SS of the day which has been divided into two sections features challenging sections including mountain passes at elevations exceeding 3200 m. At the bivouac -- where the mercury quickly topped 40єC during the day -- the five Hino mechanics had been anxiously waiting for the trucks and began work as soon as they arrived.
Yoshimasa Sugawara: This stage was really tough with extremely bumpy terrain and challenging dunes. I think it was almost the same as the course we took in the Dakar 2009. Having come this far, we're focused on racing a solid, disciplined race.
Hiroyuki Sugiura: The border crossing link route took us over highlands at elevations of up to 4300 m. As I'm susceptible to the affects of low oxygen, I took medication for altitude sickness as well as oxygen for breathing. Thanks to that, the SS went fine. I'm relieved as this was the last day that we will have to face massive dunes.
Teruhito Sugawara: We cleared the first dune by driving around it instead of climbing it. We've had to drive down at a camber on subsequent dunes, and made it through by driving around them. We have been targeting this SS (Stage 10) as well as the one in Copiapo (Stage 9) to improve our positions, and things went well. We did see our coolant temperature rise, but it never rose past 110єC and we haven't had to slow our pace to cool off. This has been another good day for us.
Seiichi Suzuki: There were many off-road situations where we had to navigate by CAP headings (compass bearings), so the SS was somewhat challenging in terms of navigation. We did see our coolant and oil temperatures rise, but never to the extent that they became a problem. We sustained some damage to our front and rear bumpers and mud flaps while climbing and descending dunes, but otherwise, the trucks are fine.
Takayuki Monma: We're going to inspect the trucks extensively for any damage as they've been over bumpy roads today. I'm relieved to hear that we haven't been having the overheating issues that plagued us during this stage up until last year.
Masayoshi Yamamoto: I'm getting used to the pace of work on the site. We're now into our last few days so I'm committed to giving my all to ensure that both trucks are able to finish the rally.
Hiroshi Hashiba: I'm getting a real feel that the competition has gotten quicker than during the previous rally.
Kenichi Suetsugu: It was tough at first, but I'm getting into the groove now. Rally vehicles are different from production vehicles in that their tolerances are tighter in many respects, but as our trucks improve their positions, I feel stronger than ever before that I must maintain my focus and avoid making any careless mistakes.
Takashi Sanno: I'm getting used to living in the sand and dust. I'm focused on improving our trucks even further so that they have ample capability to be tapped into when they need it in the last stages of the rally.