Close to the finish line, we recap Hino Team Sugawara’s gruelling last few stages of the Dakar Rally

Dakar Rally 2021

Stage 7 – Ha’il > Sakaka – 10th January 2021

The second half of the Dakar Rally 2021 started with 453kms competition section of the (SS) after a rest day. Hino Team Sugawara faced the SS with a completely refreshed Hino 500 Series truck (Car). They finished 11th overall in the truck category and 1st in the class with a displacement of less than 10 litres.

There wasn’t any assistance unit in Sakaka’s base due to the marathon process. They carried out inspections and repairs using only in-vehicle tools and parts, and to run through to the next day without damaging the car. It is a risky section where any troubles can lead to retirement, such as running out of spare tyres.

Stage 7

The SS began 224kms in Ha’il and continued in an S- shape in the suburbs of Sakaka. In the first half, it was difficult to get on top of speed because of grassy sandy hills and stone plateaus. 

In the latter half, the vehicle speed increased, but there were many sections where punctures were likely to occur due to sand dunes and sandy areas mixed with stones. The Car ran through this section firmly. Although part of the side panel of the rear body repaired the day before came off. It didn’t affect the running of the Car, and after finishing the SS, the team arrived at Sakaka 65kms liaison. 

The base area was in the site of a local university, and the crew members who completed refuelling, inspecting and maintenance, stayed at the facility to prepare for the competition the next day. 

Teruhito Sugawara

“I saw many competition cars with a lot of stones punctured in the sand. We had no trouble except that the panel flew safely. I will do my best to go to Neom tomorrow.”

Hirokazu Somemiya

“The latter half was high speed, and navigation was not difficult. Large vibrations are transmitted to the cab, such as the grassy dunes and rocks in the first half, so I think there will be considerable damage to the occupants.”

Yuji Mochizuki

“I was honestly tired from the tough course. I didn't realise when the panel came off. Since this is a marathon, I was able to confirm with the technicians that I could continue to run until Neom, so I will just check and take a rest tonight.”

Stage 8

Stage 8: Sakaka > Neom – 11th January 2021

Hino Team Sugawara had been competing in the conducted truck division where a comprehensive 13 were goals in place. In recent years the tournament during the first period of the marathon process had to be carried out once out of 2 runs between the day without a supply of the mechanics of the service and parts. This time it was set at the beginning of the second half of the game. The Car, which finished running on the first day without any trouble except for the rear body panel falling off, was inspected by the crew at Sakaka's base and entered the competition on the second day in perfect condition.

The SS started from a hill that has moved 226kms west of Sakaka. They headed west on the mountainous area at an altitude of 800m-1200m and aimed for Neom along the Red Coast.

Stage 8

It was a stage that they had to be very careful about punctures, due to rocks that caused strong vertical vibrations on the car body and hard gravel road surfaces. There were sections where sharp stones were hidden in the rocks and sand on the roadside. The Car continued to run at a solid pace with no punctures. 

Based on the SS results, the cumulative ranking was raised by one to 13th overall, and the top position in the class with a displacement of less than 10 litres was maintained.

The Goal after 108kms liaison of Neomu had been set-up in the (movement section) near the coast bivouac. The area is located on the north-western tip of Saudi Arabia near the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. The team's assistance team, which had been waiting by moving directly from Ha’il on the mid-rest day, immediately began inspection and maintenance for the first time in two days when the competition car arrived. 

Day 12 is set in the loop course around the mountainous areas around the local to the base point 465kms is scheduled.

Sugawara Teruhito

“The course setting is stricter than last year, and navigation is difficult. I have 4 days left, but I will do my best until the end.”

Hirokazu Somemiya

“If you receive strong vertical vibrations while concentrating on the roadbook screen, you will feel pain in your lower back. I had a medical massage last night and today I took a painkiller and went on board. The navigation itself was not difficult.”

Yuji Mochizuki

“For the side panel that dropped out, I took emergency measures with cloth for the time being. Also, in the second half of the race, there will be less sand, so I will have the tyres changed to semi-mad type tonight. I think that is more suitable for the stage because the tyre grip is higher and the brakes work better.”

Stage 9

Stage 9: Neom > Neom – 12th January 2021

Hino Team Sugawara completed stage 9 with a cumulative ranking remaining at 13th overall, but the time difference with the top was reduced. In the class with a displacement of less than 10 litres.

The Neom base point loop was also held in the previous tournament, but this time it goes around the surrounding hills in the opposite clockwise direction. The SS, which started on the coast near the Jordanian border 109kms from base, soon headed for the mountains, where the road surface changed from gravel to sand and valleys. The average vehicle speed was low due to the uneven roads of grassy sand, hard rocks, and valleys with heavy dust. It was a difficult course with many risks such as sections where stones in the sand caused punctures.

The Car attacked this SS quietly. Although they punctured the right front wheel in the valley, they finished the exchange in about 10 minutes, and after that they ran through without any mistakes and finished in 10th place overall, digging into the large upper ranks.  

After washing the Car, they carried out careful inspections and maintenance in preparation for the next day's stage. 

Teruhito Sugawara

“It was a tough stage with bad roads, stones, and dust. If you change the tyres to the semi-mad type XZL from today, the manoeuvrability will improve. I think it suits the course. Tomorrow's route to AlUla, which I ran in the previous tournament, seems to go a different way.”

Hirokazu Somemiya

“Today's navigation has a lot of frame diagrams, and I’ve been talking all the time and my throat has died. There was a branch like a hook problem, but it was good to be able to clear it without mistakes.”

Yuji Mochizuki

“The tyre pressure cannot be adjusted in time on the stage where the road surface changes from moment to moment. My body is okay, but the vibration hurts my neck. It was a busy day.”

Stage 10

Stage 10: Neom > AlUla – 13th January 2021

The journey on the 13th is from Neom to AlUla. Hino Team Sugawara, competed in the mountainous area set in the previous tournament and ran smoothly, finished in 13th place overall, 32 minutes 45 seconds behind the top in the track category.
From Neom on the Red Coast, they took a liaison of 83kms to the inland hills, and started the SS 342kms going south-southeast along the mountains. 

The altitude ranged from 1100m-200m, and the road surface was about half sandy and half gravel. There were sections where the vehicle speed could not be increased, such as grassy sandy hills and rocky sections, but the latter half of the course was longer than expected.

The Car continued to run the SS with all its might and arrived at the goal without a big delay from the top players. Both the vehicle and personnel finished running smoothly without any punctures or noticeable troubles. 

After the end of the competition at 159kms they headed to the bivouac of AlUla. The area is located on a plateau at an altitude of about 600m surrounded by mountains on all sides and gets cold in the middle of the night.

The SS, which was scheduled for Yanbu on the 14th, had a maximum length of 511kms, but the road surface condition deteriorated due to the bad weather in the area, so the final part was shortened by 47kms. It will be held at 466kms. There was information that the dunes would continue to be crossed over a long distance, so the mechanics carried out careful inspection and maintenance at base.

The Dakar Rally 2021 is finally in the final stages. At the end of the day's competition, Hino Team Sugawara was ranked 13th overall in the truck category in the cumulative ranking, and in the class with a displacement of less than 10 litres, it kept the lead by a large margin. There are only a few stages left, but the team renewed their feelings to aim for a higher position.

Stage 10

Teruhito Sugawara

“I was prepared for the same bad road as the day before, but in reality the distance was short and it was not so harsh. Currently we have no opponents directly competing for time, but we continue to push every day to run as fast as possible.”

Hirokazu Somemiya

“There was a section in the early stages where many ruts diverged in parallel, and it was difficult to match the cup (direction) indicated by the roadbook. Other than that, it was the same as before.”

Yuji Mochizuki

Yuji Mochizuki

“I felt comfortable today because of the short distance. However, the road surface was still tough, with sections going through valleys and sections with many stones.”

Stage 11

Stage 11: AlUla > Yanbu – 14th January 2021

There are only two days left of the Dakar 2021 battle. Hino team Sugawara finished in 13th place overall, 1 hour 14 minutes and 13 seconds behind the top Anton Shibalov team (Kamaz - Master).

The competition on this day started from 2kms away from base in AlUla. The route was to go south on the east side of the mountains along the Red Sea coast, then turn to the coast and finish at Yanbu on the coast. The SS distance was shortened from the initial 511kms to 464kms because part of the road surface was affected by rainfall such as the overflow of salt lake, but the long-distance course with high difficulty remains the same, and for participants fighting in the final game was a tough day.

On the road surface, hard gravel, valleys and fine soil appear alternately. In the second half, there was a section where sand dunes continued for about 80kms, which was the biggest difficulty.

The Car continued its bold attack on this day and ran at a pace comparable to that of its large class rivals. The goal went smoothly without any punctures, stacks, or body problems. SS after the end of the 134kms arrived at the base provided in the Yanbu airport.

At the end of this days competition, the cumulative ranking of the Car was 13th overall in the truck category and 1st in the class with a displacement of less than 10 litres. Although the majority of the rankings were decided, the mechanics were busy with the final inspection and maintenance at base in Yanbu so that they could finish the race without any trouble.

The 15th is finally the last day. After reaching the final SS of 204kms near Yanbu, they will head to King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, which is the same as the starting venue, and finish at the finish podium. 

Teruhito Sugawara

“Even today, the wind was weak and the dust that had rolled up was hard to come out and the visibility was poor. The dunes were also dangerous because the distance was long and there were places where the dune was depressed. In terms of pace, I think it is a good place for the current vehicle.”

Hirokazu Somemiya

“While driving in the second half of SS, I hurt my neck with a shock that crossed the gap. I was looking at the roadbook screen, so I couldn't stand it. Everything else is going well. I will do my best so that I can reach the goal exactly for another day.”

Yuji Mochizuki

“Today, the first half was hard and the second half had long dunes, so the tyre pressure adjustment went well. The course was quite difficult and the dunes were long, so it was hard. I'm worried about Somemiya.”