One-two finish in the Under 10-liter category after a full-blown dune stage.
The team completes a demanding course thanks to the excellent mobility of the HINO 500 Series.
The route for January 6 took the contestants from Calama to Iquique. Starting on January 5th, as the racers entered Chile, the route included off-road sections. With the Cars and Trucks divisions making a mixed start from this day onward, and contestants having to contend with the dunes, this marks the day when the competition enters stages that characterize what the Dakar Rally is all about. Whereas the trucks have been starting after the cars until January 5th, they will now be racing the SS much earlier in the day.
The 423km SS for the day started off from a point at an elevation of 3300 m near Calama, and descended the mountain on bumpy roads with stone-scattered surfaces. Midway through the route, drivers faced fluffy powder sand (fesh-fesh), and entered the same dune area that was featured in the 2010 Rally. This was followed by a track that tested the gutsiness of all drivers, where they would take their vehicles from an elevation of 1000m to sea level in a distance of only 2.3km to reach the goal line that was set up to the east of the bivouac area.
HINO TEAM SUGAWARA, who are competing on two HINO 500 Series trucks in the Series Production Trucks category, improved their position taking full advantage of the lightweight and compact bodies of their trucks. Car 2 piloted by Teruhito Sugawara and Seiichi Suzuki came in at stage rankings of 9th, 1st, and 1st in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories, respectively, overtaking a number of the larger trucks in the process. Car 1 piloted by Yoshimasa Sugawara and Hiroyuki Sugiura also improved their position to 15th, 3rd, and 2nd in these respective categories, making this the first one-two SS finish for them in this year's rally. Preliminary rankings - only preliminary figures are available for overall rankings as of this writing as many vehicles have yet to goal - show that Car 2 has a chance of improving its position to 13th, 2nd, and 1st in the Trucks, Series Production Trucks, and Under 10-liter categories, respectively, and Car 1 may also move up to 19th, 4th, and 2nd in these respective categories.
On January 7th, the race will take contestants northward from Iquique towards Chile's border with Peru, and then on to Arica. As this will be the last day of the first half before the rest day, we expect the course to be very challenging. The five mechanics who were dispatched from Hino Motors and dealers from different parts of Japan were being thorough in their inspection and maintenance procedures at the bivouac in Iquique.
Yoshimasa Sugawara: I was able to drive the dunes calmly today as well. Again, the lightweight and powerful HINO 500 Series have shown their mettle in these sandy stages. I think our choice of tires with shallower grooves is also a big help. In any case, tomorrow will be a challenging day, so I intend to make a solid run to the goal making sure not to over-pace ourselves.
Hiroyuki Sugiura: Penalties are given unless we pass certain GPS way point markers, and while it was difficult to match our line in the desert, we were able to pass all the points. Mr. Sugawara was really accustomed to desert driving so I have very little to worry about.
Teruhito Sugawara: For us, today (the day we entered the dunes) was essentially the start day. We proceeded at our usual pace and made no mistakes. We were somewhat annoyed by the bumpiness and the dust, but the sand was as we had imagined and not that difficult to drive on. I believe one of the reasons we were able to improve our position was because a number of our competitors made mistakes in identifying the course.
Seiichi Suzuki: Navigation was tough because the radius from the GPS way point to activate the way point ping was reduced from 3km to 800m. While we experienced considerable loads in some areas at high elevations, the electric fan kept the coolant temperature from rising as high as I thought it might, so that was a relief.