Jan 23, 2021
On Jan 15, contestants raced the final SS of Dakar 2021 set between Yanbu en route to Jeddah on the final stage of the event, and then took a liaison to reach the finish line in Jeddah. Crewed by Teruhito Sugawara, Hirokazu Somemiya, and Yuji Mochizuki, the HINO500 Series truck that HINO TEAM SUGAWARA entered in the Truck Division finished the final SS (timed section) of the event in the outskirts of Yanbu at 14th place overall in the Division.
One of the leading trucks fell back considerably in the SS and this pushed up the HINO500 Series truck’s overall accumulated standing by one position from 13th to 12th. In addition, the two Mercedes Benz Unimogs that were racing in 2nd and 3rd place in the Under 10-litre Class were forced to withdraw from the rally by day before yesterday, which made the HINO500 Series the only finisher in the Class, and extended the team’s winning streak in the Class to twelve.
The final SS was 202-km long and set in the hills near the coast at the end of a 105-km liaison from the Yanbu bivouac. Contestants raced southward in the hills on a letter “S” shaped course before reaching the finish line on the coast in an area to the north of Jeddah. Road surfaces were evenly split between sand and gravel, but it also threw up three dune sections that were quite difficult to cross.Although this was the final SS and not long, it was the most difficult stage of the event.
The HINO500 Series crew maintained their composure to finish this stage. The Jaroslav Valtr (Iveco PowerStar) crew who were racing at 12th place in accumulated rankings until the previous day stopped midway on the course, moving the HINO500 Series truck’s position up by one to 12th place.
After the SS, contestants took a 142-km liaison to King Abdullah Sports City, a sport facility in Jeddah. There they took part in a goal ceremony on a finish podium set up in the venue. The HINO500 Series truck arrived at the podium at around 4:00 pm. The ceremony was held with no spectators as a measure to counter the spread of COVID-19 infections. When the announcement commemorating the team’s 12th straight win in its Class came over the loudspeakers, Teruhito Sugawara and crew with their trophy in hand, together with the team’s mechanics and staff members waved their hands in response, drawing their curtain to 13 days of racing.
Dakar 2021 was the second Dakar event to be held in Saudi Arabia, and it was held under the unforeseen circumstances wrought by the global spread of COVID-19 virus infections. While rumors of the event’s cancelation floated around for a time, ASO, the organizers, went ahead with their event plans by incorporating a variety of infection prevention measures including making sure that all stakeholders took PCR tests, and placing restrictions on movement outside of the bivouacs. Thanks to these efforts, the event was able to reach its finish line safe and secure.
HINO TEAM SUGAWARA made the decision to downsize its racing team for this event due to the COVID-19 situation. The team was shaved down to its bare minimum: It fielded only one HINO500 Series racing truck, no mechanics were drafted from Hino dealerships, and there were only three mechanics in its assistance squad. Still, all staff members came together to bounce back from the tip-over accident their truck suffered in the early part of the rally to finish at 12th place overall and clinch their 12th straight win the Under 10-litre Class.
Of the 101 bikes, 16 quads (4-wheeled bikes), 64 cars, 61 LWVs (lightweight vehicles), and 44 trucks, or a total of 286 entrants in these divisions that started out of Jeddah, only 63 bikes, 11 quads, 49 cars, 41 LWVs, and 29 trucks, or a total of 193 entrants, made it to the finish line. This made for an overall finish rate of 67.5%, higher than the 65.5% rate of the previous event.
The biggest event for us this year was the tip-over accident we had and how we were able to continue the race after making emergency repairs that night. I have to apologize for tipping the truck over, and I am grateful for all that everyone did so that we can be where we are today. Thank you all very much.
The roads were rough this year, and that made things tough. We all took a pounding from the up and down shaking of the cab, and while I had to see the organizer’s medical staff at times, I’m doing fine now. I was able to enjoy the rally.
Things got difficult at times because we were a small group, but it was a great Dakar. I’m glad I was there as the truck’s mechanic when it tipped over because I was able to start up the engine and make other stop gap fixes. We were also able to gather data, so we will be using those for future development.
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