Dakar Rally 2014 Race Report - Stage 7 Jan 12, 2014

First Day of the Second Half Takes Contestants to 4000m+ Elevations
Hino trucks complete the final stage in Argentina in great form.


The second half of Dakar Rally 2014 kicked off on January 12. The Bikes category set out from Salta, Argentina to Uyuni, Bolivia, while the Cars and Trucks categories raced on a loop course that started and finished in Salta. HINO TEAM SUGAWARA mechanics fully refreshed the two HINO500 Series trucks during the rest day yesterday. Today, the trucks delivered stunning performance again competing against its oversized rivals, with Car 1 moving up in accumulated overall rankings from 27th to 25th.

Car 1 piloted by the Yoshimasa Sugawara/Katsumi Hamura crew

Although this year's Dakar Rally is being publicized as an Argentina-Bolivia-Chile race, the Bikes category was the only one that was slated to actually race the Bolivian segment. The Cars and Trucks categories raced on a loop course near Salta where the teams spent their rest day. The Bikes category will be meeting up with the rest of the teams at the bivouac at Calama, Chile as they return from Uyuni on the 13th. Although the loop course for the day was not particularly challenging, it was a long 525km stage and featured no neutral zones. Add to that the fact that it can be difficult to maintain concentration after the rest day, there was enough reason for the Hino team to use caution during this SS.

The entirety of the SS was situated in highlands in the 3000-4000m range, most of it consisting of gravel roads. This day again, the area around Salta came under inclement weather, with low lying clouds in the morning grounding course monitoring helicopters, resulting in the start being delayed by 50 minutes. There was no impact on actual driving conditions as organizers had made pre-race announcements on road book changes for sections that were affected by the previous day's rainfall.

Car 2 piloted by Teruhito Sugawara and Hiroyuki Sugiura finished this SS at 33rd place overall and 1st place in the Under 10-litre Class. Car 1 piloted by Yoshimasa Sugawara and Katsumi Hamura had its engine settings modified for higher altitudes during the rest day and finished the SS in 36th place overall and 2nd in the Class. Based on these results, Car 2 continues to maintain its 13th spot overall, Car 1 moves up to 25th overall, and both trucks maintain their solid lead in 1-2 positions in the Under 10-litre Class.

A fairly large number of competitors in this class have dropped out of the race, including Johan Elfrink and crew (Mercedes Benz Axor), a long-time rival with whom Hino trucks have fought neck-to-neck in previous races. That being said, the Dakar Rally is not over until it is over, and the team knows it. Team members are staying focused as they set out for the Chilean stages starting on the 13th, with a renewed focus to achieve their other goal, which is to finish at high rankings in the overall trucks category.

Yoshimasa Sugawara: The engine refused to fully rev at times due to the altitude, but we raced at a good clip. I was not affected at all physically and returned to the camp full of energy. We will be giving it our all in the Chilean stages that begin tomorrow.

Katsumi Hamura: We raced at elevations of 3000m right out of the gate. That gave me a pounding headache, so I had a bit of a hard time with that. I feel OK once I'm down here though. The course consisted of piste so there was nothing difficult in terms of navigation.

Hiroyuki Sugiura: While today's course was set on mountain roads, there were high-speed sections that we were going at 140km/h. We saw many trucks tipped over. I don't do very well at high altitudes either so it was a bit of a difficult day for me too.

Takeshi Suenaga: The days just zipped by from the start of the race to where we are today. Although we are kept very busy, we are all feeling good physically and we eat well so we are doing good. One of the things that keeps us on our toes during servicing is how we have to jack up the trucks on uneven ground. I've always worked by trial and error, so even during this race I often find myself making parts as we go, like remaking aluminum parts with steel.

Hiroaki Tamura: Fortunately, we haven't come across any major problems so far. That said, we've come across situations where just as soon as we would fix one thing, another problem would crop up, so we haven't had any time to let our guards down during the first half. I intend to stay focused and give it my all until we reach the finish line.

Norishiro Senuma: Things are going better than I had expected both for the trucks and for myself. We don't get much time to sleep, but we can sleep while we are on the move, so that isn't much of a problem. The rain yesterday during our rest day gave us a bit of a hard time, but I'm getting used to the heat.

Tadahiko Fuke: I work on Car 2 and I was alarmed when we heard that they tipped over. Fortunately, nobody was injured and the truck sustained only minor damage. I think our fatigue will catch up to us in the second half. I also think that the trucks might be put to the test more than they have been so far because racing under those conditions appear to be the crew's forte.



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