The Dakar Rally has never been for the faint-hearted and this year is no different. Check the pictures accompanying this story and let me pose this question to all body builders, panel-beaters and repair shops. If a transporter brought his truck into your yard looking like the Hino 500 pictured here and asked for it to be fixed overnight ready to roll 800 kms the next day, what would you say to him? Be honest now.
My bet is you would look at him at explode: “You’re mad. Get out of here”. Well that’s what faced the HINO Team Sugawara’s back-up crew when the truck arrived at the overnight stop after completing Stage 3 of the Dakar Rally on the evening of January 5th.
What happened is that while racing the 403-km section in the southern part of Saudi Arabia, the truck suffered a tip-over on a dune. All three crew members – Teruhito Sugawara, Hirokazu Somemiya and Yuji Mochizuki – were fortunately unharmed and were able to continue racing after another racer from behind helped them get the truck back upright. The truck ultimately finished the stage at 26th place overall.
The accident occurred on a hill in a dunes section in the first half of the stage when the truck drove into a pocket on the way down at 40 km/h and pivoted on its front axle, causing it to tip over forward. Down flat on the ground with its wheels in the air, the truck’s cab was deformed, its windshield was blown out, and its rear body also suffered major damage, but there was almost no damage to its power train or chassis.
“We tipped over towards a depression on our way down a slope. We weren’t going that fast and it was like slow motion watching our windscreen blow out,” says Teruhito Sugawara. His team mate, Yuji Mochizuki said although it took over an hour from the time the truck tipped over to when they got the truck back upright, oil hadn’t gotten into the cylinders so they were able to start the engine without any problem. “The data logger was damaged in the accident but all of our driving functions were working fine,” he said.
Navigator Hirokazu Somemiya said none of the navigation equipment was damaged so he was able to continue navigating once they were up and running again. “The only thing was that it got very cold with the windshield gone,” he said.
After arriving at the bivouac at around 7:30 pm, the truck had to be checked by the Dakar Rally’s Technical Committee. Based on the check and thanks to the fact that its roll bar was undamaged – a safety requirement for the rally – the committee ruled that the truck could continue the race provided that its windshield was installed and its rear body repaired, among other things. The team moved quickly to get these repairs done.
While the crew finished the section in 26th place – or 4 hours and 21 minutes – behind the leading truck, and its accumulated rankings declined to 18th place, the crew was determined to get going the next day and climb up the rankings – and indeed they did. The hard work began and continued throughout the night. On the morning of the 6th, an FIA Technical Committee official checked and approved the repairs and gave the OK for the team to race again.
According to Yuji Mochizuki, the hardest part of the repairs was installing the windshield. “There was hardly any bending on the lower pillars but the top area was bent pretty badly so we had to pull it out with a winch. We got it right in the end.”
The Hino crew started later in the starting order at 23rd place because of their late arrival at the bivouac the previous day but once out of the gate, they picked up their pace and quickly overtook a succession of trucks ahead of them. At to end of the day, the Hino500 Series truck finished the day’s Special Stage in 15th place, 28 minutes and 4 seconds behind the leader of the day, the Sotnikov crew in their KAMAZ. This result pushed them up by one spot in accumulated rankings to 17th overall in the Truck Division.
This short video shows that you just can’t keep the Hino Team Sugawara down. Amazing!