Preparations for the 2016 Dakar Rally are in full swing with 56 trucks in the total field of 556 motorcycles, cars, quads and trucks preparing to contest the 38th Dakar Rally in January.
The most popular truck in the entry is MAN with 16 in the field. Other makes represented are: Tatra (9), Iveco and DAF (6 each), Kamaz and Ginaf (4 each), Maz and Renault (3 each), Hino (2) and Liaz, Scania and Mercedes-Benz (1 each).
With such a high level of participation, the competition is going to be fierce and it is thus that Team Sugawara and Hino Motors of Japan have prepared two four-wheel-drive 500-Series trucks that are lighter, more powerful and significantly faster than the trucks raced in 2015 in their aim for a high overall placing in the truck category and a seventh straight win in the class for trucks with engines under 10-litres capacity.
Team Sugawara and the Hino engineers have used the 2015 race trucks as the basis for developing the two 2016 contenders. The latest racing trucks have had engine and suspension upgrades as well as shedding 300kg in weight.
Both trucks will be powered by the 9-litre Hino A09C engine tuned to deliver 630hp and 2 255N.m of torque. Transmission is a six-speed manual gearbox with two-speed transfer case and hub reduction rear axle. The trucks are equipped with part-time four-wheel drive and diff locks front and rear. Braking is by disc brakes with four-pot callipers on all four wheels. The fuel tank carries 700 litres. Gross weight of each vehicle is 7 300kg. A central inflation system allows the crew to inflate or deflate the Michelin tyres on the move.
The No. 1 truck – to be crewed by team principal Yoshimasa Sugawara (now 74 years old) and navigator Mitsugu Takahashi – features the 500-Series facelift which was introduced in Indonesia and Thailand earlier this year.
Hino has been a regular participant in the Dakar Rally since 1991 and has built up an amazing record for reliability, class wins (trucks with engines of less than 10 litres) and overall placings, including an outright win in 1997 and two second places in the truck category in 1994 and 1995. Hino is the only Japanese truck brand that regularly takes up the challenge of this gruelling annual event.
The 2016 Dakar Rally will start in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 3rd and finish in Rosario, also in Argentina, on January 16th after a route of more than 9 000km which includes a loop into Bolivia. This will be the first time the trucks will go into Bolivia, although both cars and motorcycles raced in that country in 2015. The 2016 route includes sections at an altitude of more than 3 500m.
There will not be many dunes on this year’s route due to the fact that Peru and Chile have been forced to withdraw from the 2015 event: Chile due to flooding in the northern parts of the country and Peru because of the effects of El Nino.
Yoshimasa Sugawara has been competing in the Dakar Rally since 1983 when he rode a motorcycle. He then raced in the car category for seven years before switching to racing the Hino 500-Series trucks in 1992. He has started the event a record 32 times and has had the most consecutive finishes at 20 events.
The second Hino truck will be driven by Yoshimasa’s second son, Teruhito and navigated by experienced Hiroyuki Sugar. Teruhito’s first experience with the Dakar was as a mechanic in 1998. He then navigated for his father before being promoted to driver of the second Hino in 2005. This year marked his fifth straight win in the under 10-litre engine class.
In keeping with tradition, three of the mechanics were chosen from applicants working at Hino dealerships in Japan. Preparation for the 2016 event by Hino Team Sugawara has been very thorough and included taking part in the Mongolia Rally and China Silk Road Rally earlier this year.