On June 12, the truck was shipped out for Moscow from Hino Motors’ Hamura test tracks. Fully prepared, the team eagerly awaits the start of the race.
The Driver and Navigator drove the truck on the Ibaraki test tracks over two days to verify its performance. After the shakedown, we had the opportunity to speak with the Driver and Navigator on their candid impressions of the truck and their hopes for the Silk Way Rally.
Teruhito Sugawara, Driver
The truck’s ride is much more comfortable now. Over the past four years or so, we have been focusing on two areas for upgrading the truck―its engine and suspension system―and my impression is that these two elements have matured quite a bit. In this latest upgrade, we modified the settings on the shock absorbers and this helped improve riding comfort. We also made modifications to the rear suspension and the rigidity of the truck’s frame, which has helped improve handling stability during turns. This allows us to make turns without lowering our speed. We have made numerous other changes to allow the truck to drive faster, so we hope to verify this at the Silk Way Rally and familiarize ourselves with how the truck handles.
Hiroyuki Sugiura, Navigator
We’ve installed quite a few newly designed parts and made numerous small modifications. The truck felt really good driving on the test tracks, so we see the Silk Way Rally as an important race in the sense that we will be able to verify whether the truck will be able to finish the race without any problems. The Silk Way Rally will take us through Russia, Kazakhstan, and China. The Russian and Kazakhstan segments in the steppe climate zones will feature many grassy terrain, and once in China, we will be racing over more dunes. In dune racing, we are constantly faced with tense situations where we can get into deep trouble if we stop at any particular point, but that makes it that much more fulfilling for when we complete the dune segments. The Driver and Navigator teamwork is key, and since this race will be packed with the thrills of what racing is all about, I am looking forward to the race very much.
We spoke with other team members who will also be taking part in the Silk Way Rally on their hopes and commitments.
Yoichi Okabe, Mechanic Sub-Leader
I had the opportunity to ride alongside the Driver during these tests, and I felt that the truck was very stable and provided good traction on turns. I expect the truck to finish in the leading group in the Silk Way Rally as long as we don’t have any breakdowns.
In the previous Silk Way Rally, we climbed as high as 8th spot at one point, but ultimately finished 13th due to a breakdown along the way. This year, we hope to deliver great results and make it into the leading group to build our team’s momentum as we prepare for the Dakar Rally next year. I’m sure that the dealer mechanics on the team may feel a bit disoriented with the special characteristics of this rally-modified HINO500 Series truck, the different methodologies that are required to service it and the harsh conditions of real-world rally racing. That being said, I am confident that we will be able to come together as a tightly knit team by working through these experiences one at a time. Other than that, I hope that we can all work together with the commitment to take on any challenge that may come our way.
Koji Tanaka, Support Car Driver
I was not part of the team for last year’s Silk Way Rally, so this will be my first experience. For the dealer mechanics, this will be the very first experience in any race so I’m sure that this will prove to be a great experience for them as we work towards the Dakar Rally. I am committed to work together with everyone else on the team so that we are able to deliver our best performance.