Hino, the leading Japanese truck manufacturer and the first one from that country to enter the gruelling Dakar Rally, way back in 1991, registered its 24th consecutive finish in the 2015 edition of this gruelling, annual cross-country race which finished in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 17.
The two-truck Hino Team Sugawara once again had a 100% finishing record and scored a 1-2 in the Dakar Challenge for trucks with engines of less than 10 litres capacity, making it six consecutive class wins and the second year in a row with them being first and second in the class. This was the 15th time Hino has won this engine capacity award in the 16 times it has been contested since 1996.
Two Mercedes-Benz Unimogs crewed by Italian teams were third and fourth in the class this year. They were 39th and 40th overall and more than 44 hours behind the class-winning Hino.
The Hinos finished 16th (Teruhito Sugawara and Hiroyuki Sugiura) and 32nd (Yoshimasa Sugawara, Yoko Wakabayashi and Katsumi Hamura) overall out of the 42 trucks which completed the route of 8 161km, including more than 3 500km of timed racing sections. A total of 64 trucks had entered this year's event.
This was the seventh time that the Dakar has been staged in South America after previously being run in Africa until it had to be cancelled in 2008 due to a fear of terrorist attacks on the competitors.
"We are pleased and proud at yet another display of outstanding reliability and durability by these two Hino trucks in the toughest regular test for this type of vehicle in open competition in the world," commented the Vice President of Hino South Africa, Ernie Trautmann.
"The two, four-wheel drive Hino 500-Series trucks entered by Hino Team Sugawara were once again the only representatives from the Japanese truck industry to participate in this two-week marathon across some of the world's most desolate regions. The strong performance also served to underline Hino's competitive spirit and technological resource," he added.
What makes the Dakar Rally a David and Goliath contest in the truck category is the fact that the Hino uses production-based six-cylinder intercooled turbocharged engines of less than 10-litres, while most of its rivals are in the "monster" category with much larger capacity engines developed specifically for this annual race.
The President of Hino Motors Limited, Yasuhiko Ichihashi, was at the finish of the Dakar for the first time to welcome the two, triumphant crews and said it was a moving experience. It was a great result for the crews, the Hino employees from the company and a few dealers in Japan who had supported them.
This year both trucks were fitted with the Hino 9-litre common rail A09C-T1 turbo-intercooled engine which developed 630 horsepower. The only major problem encountered by the two trucks was a leaking radiator in Teruhito's No. 2 truck, probably caused by a flying stone, on the second day which caused a significant time loss.
Hino Team Sugawara says it will use the data and information collected during this year's race to make the trucks even more competitive in 2016.
This year's route started in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and went into Bolivia before the finish back in Buenos Aires, it included 13 timed special stages, many of which were far longer than usual and there was a marathon stage over two days when no outside assistance in servicing the trucks was permitted. There was a significant amount of high altitude running, often above 3 000m, which was taxing on the crews and power sapping for the vehicles.
This year Hino continued its long association with Team Sugawara, which is headed up by Yoshimasa Sugawara, who has entered the Dakar Rally 32 times consecutively - a record. He is the only Japanese to have competed in this epic race on a motorcycle and quad as well as in a car and truck.
Now 73 years of age he holds the record for the most consecutive finishes in the Dakar Rally at 24. His son, Teruhito, contested the Dakar Rally for the 17th time in this year's race and this was only the fourth time he has finished outside the top 10.
Hino, Kamaz, Iveco, Tatra and Maz were the only five makes with a 100% finishing record in this year's race out of a field that also included MAN, Mercedes-Benz, DAF, Ginaf, Renault and Liaz trucks.
Interestingly the second Dakar in which Hino participated finished in Cape Town after starting in Paris, with the Japanese trucks in 4th, 5th, 6th and 10th positions. The big breakthrough came in 1994 with a second position overall. This achievement was repeated in 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2005.
The most successful year for Hino was 1997 when it became the first and until 2011 the only maker to take the first three places overall in the truck category when the route went from Dakar to Agades and back to Dakar. In 2011 Kamaz, of Russia, became only the second truck maker to register a 1-2-3 finish and repeated this feat in 2013 and this year.