The 2020 Dakar Rally is just on a month away and the good news is that there will be a total of 47 trucks competing in what is undoubtedly the world’s most gruelling test of man and machine.
Hino in Japan is going all out and has entered two, all-wheel drive trucks in the rally, which is the 42nd in the series and will take place in Saudi Arabia for the first time. This will be the 28th consecutive year that Hino has entered the Dakar and it remains the only Japanese truck in the field.
The crews will face very different terrain to that they have grown used to in the 12 years that the Dakar has been staged in South America. The 2020 Dakar starts in Jeddah on January 5, and ends in Qiddiya on January 17, with the rest day on January 11 in Riyadh.
The route of 7 500kms includes 5 000km of special timed stages in the largest country in the Middle East; 75% of the rally will be over sand – all types of sand! Five of the stages are longer than 450km.
Hino will be aiming for an 11th successive win in the class for trucks with engines of less than 10-litres capacity as well as high overall finishing positions. In addition, there is huge pressure on the team to finish the event, as there has been at least one Hino truck at the finish in every Dakar which Hino has contested in the past.
Hino will mount a two-pronged attack in 2020 with two very different looking trucks. Both share the same mechanicals. One, the 500 Series, has the usual forward control cab – as sold in South Africa – while the second, a 600 Series, is a bonneted version which is sold only in the United States. The latter truck has a weight penalty of 250kg versus the SA-style model, which weighs 7 950kg.
Both trucks are powered by 9-litre, turbocharged, six-cylinder engines producing 750 bhp (550 kW) and 2 300 N.m of torque. The 500 Series uses a 6-speed manual gearbox while the 600 Series is fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission with a torque converter. There are transfer boxes providing a choice of high or low ratios, as well as a locking centre differential. Fuel tank capacity is 760 litres.
Both trucks will have three-man crews this year, after having had two-man crews for the past several Dakar Rallies. Each crew consists of a driver, navigator, and mechanic. The team has also increased the number of technicians and support crew.
The team is once again entered as Hino Team Sugawara but Yoshimasa Sugawara, who directed the team for the past 30 years, has retired from driving after contesting 35 consecutive Dakars. He started on a motorcycle in 1983 and subsequently rode quads and cars before moving to Hino trucks in 1992 when the race finished in Cape Town.
Yoshimasa’s son, Teruhito, will now be the No. 1 driver in the 500 Series and also the team director. He has competed in 21 Dakar Rallies already and finished out of the top 15 overall twice in the 15 years that he has been a driver, after previously navigating for his father.
Teruhito will be accompanied by Yuji Mochiyuki and Hirozaku Somemiya. The 600 Series truck will be driven by Ikuo Hanawa, who will have Yudai Hanawa and Mayumi Kezuka sitting alongside him.
The field of 47 trucks for the 2020 Dakar Rally consists of 13 MANs, 8 Ivecos, 5 Renaults, 5 DAFs, 4 Kamaz, 3 Tatras, 3 MAZs, 2 Hinos, 2 Mercedes Benzs, 1 Unimog and 1 Praga.