Wrap up of Stages 6 – 10 with Hino Team Sugawara gaining ground through some wild terrain and marathon stages

Friday, 17 January 2020

Wrap up of Stages 6 – 10 with Hino Team Sugawara gaining ground through some wild terrain and marathon stages

Stage 6 - Ha'il > Riyadh
Liaison > 353km - Special > 477km

January 10: Dakar Rally 2020 took contestants on a 477km SS en route from Ha'il to Riyadh, followed by a liaison to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Hino team Sugawara’s Car 1 crewed by Teruhito Sugawara/Hirokazu Somemiya/Yuji Mochizuki delivered impressive performance again this day, finishing the SS at 11th place overall in the trucks category and climbing to 11th place in accumulated overall rankings. Time differences are still small and we can expect the team to up the ante in the second half to close in on the leading group.

At a total distance of 830km, this was a long stage for the teams. The SS (timed section) started in an intermountain area at the end of a 177km liaison out of the Ha'il bivouac. It mainly consisted of unpaved roads with ups and downs over sandy ground with a number of low lying dunes interspersed along the way, and featured numerous sections where crews were able to race at relatively high speeds. Car 1 was the 11th truck out of the start line but was unable to up its pace due to a leak in its exhaust train. The truck fell back to 16th place at the 57km point, but thanks to creative driving, gradually climbed back up again to finish at 11th place.

Teruhito Sugawara (Car 1 Driver)

“The truck sprang an exhaust leak soon out of the start line and we weren't able to get the torque we needed. The SS today was relatively high-speed-oriented so I compensated with my driving all the way to the finish line. Our time difference with the leading pack isn't large so the second half of the rally will be the highlight of our battle. I'm sure there will be opportunities to capitalise on.”

Yuji Mochizuki (Car 1 Navigator)

“The boost pressure would not rise due the exhaust leak, so Mr. Teruhito covered for that with his driving. Tomorrow is rest day so we are going to fix this problem properly and prepare for the second half of the rally.”

January 11, Riyadh: There was no racing on January 11 and teams will have a day of rest here in Riyadh. As soon as the trucks arrived, the team’s mechanics went ahead with their thorough inspections and servicing tasks, as well as pre-scheduled parts replacements

Stage 7 - Riyadh > Wadi Al Dawasir
Liaison > 195km - Special > 546km

Car 1 finishes 11th in the longest 546km SS of the event, climbing to 10th place in general ranking. Car 2 is out of the competition element of the race but is still undertaking the course. 

January 12: The second half of Dakar Rally 2020 is on, with contestants competing between Riyadh and Wadi Al-Dawasir in Saudi Arabia. The SS (timed section) - the longest in this year's event at 546km - was set in a desert area to the south of the capital city of Riyadh. Most of the course was made up of relatively high-speed road surfaces on a plateau, interspersed with a number of short dune sections along the way. Car 1 delivered a stunning performance, finishing the SS at 11th place overall in the trucks category. Based on this result, the truck moves up one place in general rankings to 10th place overall.

Car 2, which dropped out of competition due to a problem early in the race, tipped over on its right side on a dune slope at the 270km point. The truck fortunately suffered only minor damage and was able to reach the finish line after it was turned back up with help from a truck driving behind them.

Teruhito Sugawara (Car 1 Driver)

“I was able to drive comfortably on today's high speed stage. Even though they say it's high speed, I didn't feel that the risks were that high since regulations place a 140 km/h speed limit on trucks. I think things will start to get more difficult starting with the loop course tomorrow so I will stay on my toes.”

Ikuo Hanawa (Car 2 Driver)

“I changed our line on a slope to avoid a depression and that's when we slowly tipped over. My lack of experience with dunes and trucks showed. It was rather pathetic.”

Yudai Hanawa (Car 2 Navigator)

“I was more amazed than surprised when we tipped over as the truck started to lean over like it was slow motion. After that, we were able to make it back to the bivouac, taking over the truck that helped us out.”

Stage 8 - Wadi Al Dawasir > Wadi Al Dawasir
Liaison > 239km - Special > 477km

Car 1 finishes in 7th place overall in the SS made all the more difficult by soft sand. Car 2, which suffered a tip-over the previous day, also finishes in fine shape. The second stage of the second half of the rally took contestants on a 477km SS (timed section) situated southwest of Wadi Al-Dawasir on a loop course based out of the bivouac. Racing in an intermountain area which posed an incredibly high level of difficulty, Car 1 finished the SS at 7th place overall in the trucks category. And while the truck's general ranking to date remained unchanged at 10th place, the crew narrowed their time difference with the Martin Soltys crew's 9th ranking truck (Tatra Phoenix) to a mere 2 minutes and 11 seconds.

The SS started on a plateau at an altitude of about 1000m, 132km west of the Wadi Al-Dawasir bivouac. After racing over dunes that were not particularly high, the stage met contestants with a variety of terrain that alternated between sandy, high-speed off road, twisting rocky ground, and dunes as they wove through the intermountain area.

In tribute to the tragic death of bike racer Paulo Gonçalves in an accident during the SS on January 12, organisers cancelled the day's competition for the bikes and quad.

Stage 9 - Wadi Al Dawasir > Haradh
Liaison > 476km - Special > 410km

Car 1 finishes the rugged, perseverance-testing SS at 16th place overall. Team decides to retire Car 2 due to safety concerns.
At a total travel distance of 891km, this was the longest stage of this year's event. After a 376km liaison from Wadi Al-Dawasir, which also doubled as the assistance route, the course branched off into the mountain area where the start line for the two-part SS was set. The first 155km section of the SS was reminiscent of the Morocco Rally with its hard and rough road surfaces, and rocky terrain. 

The second half was set at the end of an hour drive on a 31km neutral zone, and featured wide open sandy plateaus and other road surfaces where racers could drive at relatively high speeds.

Dunes also appeared for a short distance towards the end of the SS. After the SS finish, contestants merged again with the assistance route, and then took a 99km liaison to the bivouac in Haradh near the airport.

Teruhito Sugawara (Car 1 Driver)

“We decided to drive cautiously today as we risked damaging the truck by driving fast on the hard surfaces, and also because the dust was so intense. The marathon stage starting tomorrow will be the deciding contest for us. We don't know how much sand there will be, but we will give it our best.”

Ikuo Hanawa (Car 2 Driver)

“Trial-and-error and problems come with the territory when developing a new rally racer. There are so many things we can miss unless we race it in the real world. What bugs me to no end is that we've had to retire just when I was starting to enjoy dune racing. I would definitely like to race this rally again if I get the chance.”

Stage 10 - Haradh > Shubaytah
Liaison > 74km - Special > 534km

Organisers shorten SS distance due to strong winds. Car 1 finishes the first day of the marathon stage at 14th place.

The stage on the 15th took contestants from Haradh to Shubaytah. Organisers decided that they could not ensure the safety of competitors due to strong winds and cut the 534km SS (timed section) short to 345km with its finish line at the end of the neutral zone on a paved section. From there, racers took a 137km liaison to Shubaytah. The actual distance of the SS was 223km as it ended where the neutral zone began. This was about half of the planned distance and ended without going through the highly difficult dune areas near Shubaytah.

The Car 1 crew maintained their cool as they raced the early part of the SS which featured sections with a succession of dune ridges set on a plateau. This was followed by a sandy off road plateau with sections where the risk of making course navigation errors was high, but the Car 1 crew raced these sections in stride.

Teruhito Sugawara (Car 1 Driver)

“I suppose you could call those dunes but it was like driving over ridges of sand hills up on plateaus. We would quickly decelerate on our descent from the ridges and floor the gas pedal to accelerate once we were at the bottom, but we would be left behind by our larger rivals during acceleration. I'm looking forward to tomorrow as we should be racing over the high dunes around the bivouac.”

Hirokazu Somemiya (Car 1 Navigator)

“Navigation over the dunes basically boils down to following the cups (directions) so I will be double checking these to make sure I can help Mr. Teruhito drive well.”

Yuji Mochizuki (Car 1 Navigator)

“We were able to race comfortably today as the turbocharger that our mechanics adjusted last night was doing great and it didn't look like we were having any exhaust leaks. There is no problem with the truck."

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