Hino Motors Limited, Japan’s leading truck manufacturer, will enter its customary two trucks in the 2017 Dakar Rally in South America as it aims to extend its record to 26 consecutive finishes in this gruelling two-week event. Hino will also be out to win the class for trucks with engines under 10 litres capacity for the eighth time in a row.

Once again, the team will be managed by Team Sugawara and is a joint venture with Hino engineers who have further improved the performance of the two 500-series four-wheel drive trucks. Hino is once again the only entry from a Japanese truck manufacturer, with all the other trucks coming from Eastern and Western Europe.

This year’s route of almost 9 000km and goes from Asuncion in Paraguay on January 2 via Bolivia to the finish in Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 14. This is the first time the route goes through Paraguay, which makes it the 29th country in the world that the Dakar has traversed in its history, which dates to 1977. Paraguay is the fifth South American country to be on the rally route.

The 2017 event has attracted a total of 344 entries, with 54 trucks, 136 cars, 110 motorcycles and 44 quads.

Hino No. 1 is based on the truck that raced in the 2016 event with updates to the performance of the 9-litre, straight-six turbocharged engine and suspension upgrades. The engine now develops 650 hp of power and 2 255N.m of torque. Truck No. 2 is new for the 2017 event with improved durability components following participation in the Silk Way Rally in July. (The latter was an 11 000km event from Moscow to Beijing).

Both trucks have six-speed transmissions with No. 1 being part-time four-wheel drive and No. 2 having full-time four-wheel drive.

Hino No. 1 will be driven by Yoshimasa Sugawara with Mitsugu Takahashi doing the navigating, while Yoshimasa’s son, Teruhito, will drive Hino No. 2 with Hiroyuki Sugiura as his navigator. These are the only two-man crews on the event, with all the other truck racers opting for a crew of three people.

Team director Yoshimasa Sugawara has entered the Dakar Rally 33 times consecutively – a record. He is the only Japanese to have competed in this epic race on a motorcycle and quad as well as in a car and truck.

Now 74 years of age he holds the record for the most consecutive finishes in the Dakar Rally at 25. His son, Teruhito, contested the Dakar Rally for the 18th time in 2016, finishing in the top 10 on 13 occasions.

Interestingly the second Dakar in which Hino participated, in 1972, finished in Cape Town after starting in Paris, with the Japanese trucks in 4th, 5th, 6th and 10th positions. This was the first time that Yoshi masa Sugawara had driven a Hino and he has continued to do so since then.

The big breakthrough for Hino came in 1994 with a second position overall. This achievement was repeated in 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2005. The most successful year for Hino was 1997 when it became the first and until 2011 the only maker to take the first three places overall in the truck category when the route went from Dakar to Agades and back to Dakar.

As usual, most of the members of the Team Sugawara Hino support crew are mechanics selected from Hino dealerships in Japan.

The truck entry for the 2017 Dakar Rally is made up of 12 makes of truck. Most popular for the 2017 event is MAN with 16 entries. The other makes are DAF (8), Iveco (6), Tatra (6), Kamaz (4), Maz (3), Ginaf (3), Renault (3), Hino (2), Liaz (1), Scania (1) and Mercedes-Benz (1).

Hino says that by continuing to take part in what is known as the most gruelling rally on the planet the company can hone its truck-building and servicing capabilities. In line with its corporate vision, this helps Hino make the world a better place to live in by helping people and goods get where they need to go, safely, economically and with environmental responsibility while focussing on sustainable development.