Teams arrive in Chile, the main battlefield of the Dakar Rally. HINO TEAM SUGAWARA completes the highlands stage traversing the Andes Mountains in good form.
Having completed the route to San Salvador de Jujuy, the last stage in Argentina, without event on January 4th, HINO TEAM SUGAWARA's two HINO 500 Series trucks traveled the 554km link route to enter Chile on the 5th and took on the 207km SS that would take them to Calama, the bivouac for the day.
During the stage on the 4th, Car 2 piloted by Teruhito Sugawara and Seiichi Suzuki unexpectedly got stuck about 100km out of the start gate. They were eventually able to get the truck back on track with help from Yoshimasa Sugawara and Hiroyuki Sugiura on Car 1 who arrived later, suffering only a minor setback in terms of time. Car 2, which took the lead later in the segment, came in at stage rankings of 29th, 6th, and 3rd in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and under 10-liter categories, respectively, and Car 1 came in at 28th, 5th, and 2nd in these respective categories. The two trucks then entered the 244-km link route where they were stuck in traffic congestion on public roads and arrived at Jujuy well past 10 pm.
The following day, January 5th, the trucks crossed the Argentine-Chile border midway through the link route, and then entered the 207-km SS. The road surface consisted of stone-mixed gravel, and the segment offered the first off-road section of the race, a clear indication that the trucks had entered the main battlefield of the Dakar Rally. Contestants had to put up a real fight throughout this SS in the highlands whose start gate was at an elevation of 3400 m, and involved intense ups and downs before reaching the bivouac in Calama, a town which was itself situated at an elevation of 2400 m.
Car 2 and its pilots put on a solid fight throughout this SS, coming in at stage rankings of 30th, 7th, and 2nd in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and under 10-liter categories, respectively. Car 1 came in at 32nd, 8th, and 3rd in these respective categories. These results indicated that both crews were gradually finding their groove as the race approached segments with sandy terrain, a forte of HINO 500 Series trucks. With these results, Car 2 came in at overall rankings of 22nd, 5th, and 2nd in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and under 10-liter categories, respectively. Car 1 came in at 28th, 7th, and 3rd in these respective categories. The team is now ready to improve their rankings during the climax of this rally which they will be facing in short order. While assistance teams were required to start after all of the contestants due to border crossing requirements, and therefore could not reach the bivouac until close to 8 pm, the five Hino mechanics worked tirelessly upon arrival to set up the maintenance area.
Yoshimasa Sugawara: I saw several trucks that had veered off course and crashed. While this proves that the courses during the early parts of the race are risky for trucks, our trucks are in good shape. Today (January 5th), we had to drive through a great deal of fluffy powder sand, called "fesh-fesh," as well as bumpy mountain roads, making for a very difficult race. I'm not affected by the low oxygen levels at high elevations so I look forward to the climax of the race that we will be facing shortly.
Hiroyuki Sugiura: We had been keeping our pace down since the race started on the 2nd, and now we are steadily getting into the groove. We have had no problems so far, including any navigation problems.
Teruhito Sugawara: On the 4th, we got stuck in a spot where you would normally not suspect any problems. But we were relieved to get out thanks to help from the Car 1 crew. Today (January 5th), there were many situations that gave us a true sense of the speed that our larger rivals were capable of. Having said that, we are coming up to a difficult stage on the last day of the first half (January 7th) so I think we will have great opportunities.
Seiichi Suzuki: I was concerned of the rate at which our brake shoes were wearing, but it appears we have been doing fine yesterday and today, and hopefully the days to follow. Through small tune up steps that we've been taking, such as replacing rear stabilizers with those with larger diameters, and canceling the adjustment system for balancing the front and rear brakes, we are very close to reaching the optimum setup for our trucks.