Stage 3 - Neom > Neom
Liaison > 77km - Special > 427km
Stage 3, the first loop course of the event was based out of Neom and featured a 427km SS (timed section). Hino Team Sugawara’s Car 1 finished 14th overall in the trucks category. The truck climbed to 13th place in accumulated overall rankings and maintained its top position in the under 10-litre Class.
The SS of the day started from the goal point of the previous day, about 2km away from the bivouac. The course took contestants in a counter clockwise direction in the smaller mountain areas near Neom, with the road surface mainly consisting of sandy ground shifting to rocky areas and also some hard ground. Because there were no dunes on the course, racers were generally able to pick up speed. Once across the finish line, contestants drove on a 77km liaison to reach the bivouac where their assistance squads waited. Skirting the Jordanian border, this was the northernmost route of the event.
Car 1 made a tactical decision, as its only stage 3 in the race, and the crew ran at a slightly reduced pace to avoid excessive stresses on the trucks body. That being said, thanks to the absence of any major problems and only a minor navigation issue, the truck clocked a finish time that was on par with the middle pack of racers in the cars category.
Hirokazu Somemiya (Car 1 Navigator)
“It was another tough course today. The surfaces in the second half were bumpy and caused non-stop strain for the crew. It felt like the hardest parts hit us at the very end. I misled the truck towards the rocks at one point, but we managed to get back on course because I had a picture in my mind of what the course was like. We did end up losing 7-8 minutes though, so it was a frustrating day. This is my first Dakar Rally, and I'm getting used to it little by little. I will aim for an error-free race tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Car 2, which had to stop on the course due to damage to its rear body (cargo deck) in stage 2 on January 6, received emergency repairs from team mechanics who rushed from the bivouac and arrived back at Neom around 1:00am. Although the three crew members are doing fine, the truck did not start in stage 3 and the team concentrated on repairing the truck. The plan is to re-join the competition on or after January 8.
Ikuo Hanawa (Car 2 Driver)
“We were doing fine out of the SS start line on January 6. As time went by, we noticed that the vibration from the cargo deck was getting more intense, so we pulled over into a neutral zone between the 236-237 km points to check it. We found a crack but we continued racing because we didn't have much time, and soon after that, the rear gate supporting the structure above the cargo deck broke and this made the rear fender hit the rear wheel so we had to stop. We called for assistance as we saw that it would be difficult for us to repair it on our own. It's very disappointing, but I intend to run the rest of the rally to the finish line so that we can collect useful data.”
Car 2 was forced to stop due to a problem in stage 2 and returned to the bivouac under its own power after receiving temporary repairs. The truck did not start in stage 3 so that the team can focus on repairs and have it re-join competition.
Teruhito Sugawara arrives at the bivouac after the SS.
Navigator Hirokazu Somemiya is frustrated with his navigation error.
Car 1 is being serviced in preparation for the next day’s stage.