Both of the team’s trucks made a trouble-free finish at the Silk Way Rally 2018 held in Russia (from July 20 thru 27), with Teruhito Sugawara finishing in 6th place, and Yoshimasa Sugawara in 9th.
HINO TEAM SUGAWARA positioned Silk Way Rally 2018 as the run up race to the Dakar Rally, and were happy with the results from this real-world test leading up to Dakar Rally 2019. In this report, we will be covering the events in Silk Way Rally 2018 starting from Stage 1 up to the finish line.
HINO TEAM SUGAWARA and staff members from Hino Russia (Hino Motors Sales, LLC), Hino’s distributor in Russia, as well as from dealerships celebrate on the podium during the goal ceremony held in Red Square in Moscow.
Stage 1: Astrakhan - Astrakhan
Stage 1 on day one of Silk Way Rally 2018 kicked off with a course that confronted racers with dunes and hilly terrain. The two HINO500 Series trucks raced the bumpy and tricky high-speed courses at a lively pace. Ahito Sakurai, who was navigating for Yoshimasa Sugawara for the first time in this rally, navigated the truck safely to the stage’s finish line without any course errors.
Stage 2: Astrakhan - Elista
Stage 2 was a marathon stage set in the central part of the Kalmykia Desert. The mechanic crews stayed at the Astrakhan starting point, which meant that drivers and navigators had to service their vehicles on their own during this stage. The HINO500 Series truck Car 1 crew were able to maintain their own pace and finish in 13th place this day in spite of joining a rival MAZ truck during the day to assist another MAZ truck (Belarus) that had become stuck in the mud.
Stage 3: Elista - Astrakhan
The return leg of the marathon stage consisted of a high-speed stage that tested the crews on their driving and navigation skills. Segments after CP1 had to be canceled due to bad weather so the course was cut short from what was originally planned.
Stage 4: Astrakhan - Astrakhan
Stage 4 was the second loop course of this year’s Silk Way Rally. The stage took crews through areas that were similar to Stage 1 before heading back to the same bivouac in Astrakhan. The day featured bumpy, high-speed courses, and the ruts that were created during Stage 1 made it difficult for navigators to determine the correct track.
Stage 5: Astrakhan - Volgograd
Stage 5 met contestants with the longest SS (Special Stage) of this event, featuring bumpy courses in the first half, which then transitioned to high-speed courses racing through farm fields before reaching the finish line. HINO500 Series truck Car 2 damaged its rear leaf spring driving on narrow roads that twisted through trees, and the mechanics were consequently up all night replacing the springs and servicing the trucks.
Stage 6: Volgograd - Lipetsk
Stage 6 was the longest stage of the event including the SS and liaison routes, and featured a rich diversity of terrain such as sandy surfaces, grasslands, and farm fields. Teruhito Sugawara of Car 2 continued to race at a brisk pace this day and crossed the finish line in 6th place, notwithstanding the damage the truck sustained to its corner panel earlier in the day.
Stage 7: Lipetsk - Moscow
Organizers were forced to cancel CP1 of Stage 7, the final stage of the rally, due to inclement weather, shortening the SS from 190 km to 80 km. It was a short but tricky and challenging course for navigators as evidenced by the detailed and complicated instructions on their block diagrams (route book for each stage provided by the organizers). Both of the team’s trucks finished the stage without any problems, and at the goal ceremony that was held in Red Square in Moscow, Car 2, which finished ahead of a KAMAZ truck (Russia) in 6th place, and Car 1, which accomplished its original goal of finishing the race, were introduced to the crowd at the podium. Team members shared their joy with guests who arrived at the ceremony to support the team.
Yoshimasa Sugawara, Driver, Car 1
I was able to accomplish my personal goals, and as a team, we were able to accomplish our team’s goals.
“Paris-Moscow-Beijing Marathon Raid” which started off in Paris and finished in Beijing. We drove through Moscow in that rally, so those memories came back to me and took me down memory lane. The last stage of this rally had us drive through the city of Moscow. It was difficult dealing with traffic restrictions and onlookers, so we had to stay on our toes right up to the end. In any case, I am very happy that we were able to finish this race without any problems thanks to the many people who supported us.
Ahito Sakurai, Navigator, Car 1
I was intrigued with everything I experienced, and now that it’s over, it seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye. Right now, I’m just relieved that we were able to finish without any problems. I’ve also been able to identify some of my weaknesses as a navigator, so I intend to educate myself in those areas leading up to the Dakar Rally.
Teruhito Sugawara, Driver, Car 2
While a number of SSs had to be canceled, we were able to run a solid test on our truck as we didn’t have to deal with extreme weather overall.
This year, we are racing a new truck, and we also have a new team setup. The HINO500 Series Car 2 that I drove was built based on a completely different concept from before, and we were able to confirm its racing capabilities, reliability, and durability in this rally. Constantly on our minds throughout the race was our time differences with the leading group, and I think we were able to put up an equal fight against KAMAZ (Russia) on their home turf. In terms of team setup, I think we were able to build up better teamwork with this new setup where we have a new navigator as well as more mechanics and support members than we did before. Overall, we are all very happy with the results of this rally. Based on what our objectives were for entering the Silk Way Rally, I would give these results more than 100 points out of 100.
Mitsugu Takahashi, Navigator, Car 2
As we positioned this rally as a real-world testing ground leading up to the Dakar Rally, one of our aims was to identify the differences between our capabilities and those of the competition. We were able to race a very close race with KAMAZ, MAZ, and other trucks in the leading group, and we now know that we are on par with our rivals in terms of both truck performance and team setup. We are all committed to working together and aim for a leading position in the Dakar Rally.
Seiichi Suzuki, Technical advisor
Neither Car 1 nor Car 2 experienced any major problems, and our new Car 2 did really well. Once we are back in Japan, the drivers and I will be discussing what we can do to make solid preparations for the Dakar Rally.
Hideaki Takatori, Mechanic leader support
While this was our first Silk Way Rally with this new team setup with more mechanics, I think everyone understood their roles and gave it their best. This rally was shortened from the original itinerary to seven stages, and when you exclude the marathon stage and the final stage, there were only five stages where we actually performed servicing work. It wasn’t a long rally, but since we were able to experience servicing both trucks at the same time, I think it gave us a great opportunity to envision what to expect in the Dakar Rally.
Shintaro Suzuki, Mechanic leader support
There were some challenges that came from the size of the team, but I’m glad that we were able to complete this rally without anyone getting hurt. My role was more about listening to what members on the site had to say and organizing their input, more than it was about servicing the trucks. There were some things that I wasn’t able to act on and some areas where I could do better, so I will be working on those as we head into the Dakar Rally.
Wataru Takahashi, Mechanic, Car 1
I’m relieved that things went well without any major problems, but there were a lot of things that I could have done better and I also have some regrets too. There were times that I couldn’t keep up with anticipating the next step in performing our daily routine work. Our team is made up of members from different companies and departments, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt this great sense of camaraderie on any kind of team before.
Shinji Kitagawa, Mechanic, Car 2
When I saw the conditions the trucks were in when they were back at the bivouac, I could see the beating that they were being put through and that made me realize how tough the Silk Way Rally was. The week felt long in some ways and short in others depending on how you looked at it. What I know for certain is that it was a week in which I felt a true sense of accomplishment, and a week where I was able to renew my commitment to the Dakar Rally.
Yuji Mochizuki, Mechanic, Car 2
Everything was new for me, and I think I’ve grown as a person working on this rally team. I was able to stay focused on my work even in this rally environment, and I also experienced many new things in the day-to-day life of a rally team. Mitsugu Takahashi, navigator for Car 2, let us know that the truck’s settings were at their best, so once we are back in Japan, I intend to delve deeper into the details and prepare for the Dakar Rally.
Kazuki Ishida, Mechanic, Car 1
I usually work in the office and have never done any service work at midnight so it felt more physically demanding than I thought it would be. But in the end, it was all over before I knew it. This was great preparation for me because I learned that I needed to get more physically fit, and also that I needed to learn more about the trucks going into the Dakar Rally.
Fuminori Ishizaki, Mechanic, Car 2
One of the mechanics who was on the last Dakar Rally team told me that the Silk Way Rally was the toughest. In fact, the damage sustained by the trucks and the dirt on them by the time they were back at the bivouac were beyond my wildest expectations. There were a lot of things that I learned from working hands-on on these trucks, such as how our crews were actually driving these trucks in the race. Every day, the dirt on the trucks was so brutal that it felt like I was battling dirt the whole week.
Yu Honda, Mechanic, Car 1
We have been out of the country for three weeks including preparations, and this was the longest time for me to be away from Japan. The conditions were quite extreme so it was tough. In terms of our work, it really hit me that each of us had to completely follow through with our responsibilities to keep the team functioning smoothly. This rally has been a great opportunity for me to identify areas that I can improve on leading up to the Dakar Rally.
Daisuke Nawa, Mechanic, Car 2
The five days of servicing work really just flew by, and I was able to experience the challenges and joy of completing our work within the limited timeframe we had. This has been a great learning experience for me going into the Dakar Rally.
Hironobu Oda, Mechanic, Car 1
We couldn’t get enough sleep during the race and that was tough in some ways, but all the invaluable experiences that I had more than made up for that. I am also very grateful to be able to work with such amazing team members.
Koji Tanaka, Support car driver (Japan Racing Management)
While this was a short race within Russian borders because the Chinese stages were canceled, I think we were able to complete the race with great results, including how we were able to identify areas that could use improvement on our new racing truck and new support truck, and also in terms of training for our new members.
Mayumi Kezuka, Support member (Japan Racing Management)
In this rally, Car 2 sustained unexpected damage on a particular component, and we were not able to arrange for spare parts in time. I intend to make sure we make solid preparations for the Dakar Rally to avoid situations like this one.
Rumi Ando, Support member (Japan Racing Management)
I got a chance to watch the start of the SS on day one and witness firsthand the HINO500 Series trucks’ amazing speed racing on the piste. I was amazed at the scale of the rally course, and got a true sense of the exceptional capabilities of the drivers and navigators, and the great challenges that they faced. In terms of my support work, most of it was prompted by advice or follow ups from my seniors and there were not that many instances where I was able to act proactively on my own initiative. So I feel that I can do better. I would like to learn from this experience so that I can act more proactively on my own initiative during the upcoming Dakar Rally.