On January 20th, Dakar Rally 2018 contestants raced their final SS on the outskirts of Córdoba, Argentina on a looped course that took them to finish line back in Córdoba. This concluded all 15 days and 14 stages of the competition. In the early stages of the rally, Hino Team Sugawara was left with only one of the two Hino 500 Series trucks that they entered due to an ill-fated problem which forced Car 1 crewed by Yoshimasa Sugawara and Katsumi Hamura to withdraw from the race. Nonetheless, the Teruhito Sugawara and Mitsugu Takahashi crew on Car 2 delivered stunning performance, achieving the team's 9th straight win in the Under 10-litre Class, and beating out many of its larger rivals powered by 10 litre-plus engines for a ranking at 6th place overall (accumulated).
Mitsugu Takahashi said, ‘We couldn't have asked for a better outcome. I think our 6th place ranking is pretty fitting for where we are. I was also happy to have been able to navigate for Mr.Teruhito. Today's SS, the last one in the race, required almost no navigation so I had a lot of fun pushing him among other things.’
It was around 1 am local time when Car 2 arrived at the bivouac in Córdoba at the end of an extra-long 900 kilometre stage that started off on January 19th. Mechanics inspected the truck with no sleep or breaks and prepared the truck for its last SS that was set to start off in the morning. Upon leaving the bivouac?which was set up in a stadium on the outskirts of Córdoba?racers first travelled northwest on a 71 km liaison, and then raced a 119 km looped SS at the base of the Córdoba mountains. This was followed by a 94 km liaison that took them back to the bivouac. Once there, the racing vehicles formed a line according to their finishing order before heading out at around 8 pm to the podium that was set up in front of the county office building. The course of this day's SS consisted mostly of twisty gravel roads and pistes (unpaved roads) in intermountain areas. While no major changes in ranking positions were expected to occur due to the short distance of the SS, any team that failed to finish the SS would not be recognized as a finisher. Nor would they be assigned a ranking position.
The Sugawara and Takahashi crew remained composed throughout the SS and finished at 10th place overall. After the SS, they returned to the bivouac in Córdoba without any problems, at which point their ranking was finalised.
Teruhito Sugawara said, ‘I had a great time every day as we faced a succession of difficult courses back to back, and raced in many areas that we'd never been to before. This was the 20th Dakar Rally for me personally, and I'm glad that we were able to achieve the results that we aimed for. I think we were able to make the best of our current potential so it was very satisfying in that respect too. Right now, I'm just relieved.’
Hino chairman, Yasuhiko Ichihashi, was present at the goal venue to congratulate the team's mechanics and staff members as well as show his appreciation for the work that they had put in over the past year. Once all racing vehicles were assembled at the podium, which was set up in front of the county office building, organizers put on a party to celebrate the success of the event and its 40th anniversary. This concluded all official proceedings of Dakar Rally 2018.
Hino Motors chairman, Yasuhiko Ichihashi said, ‘I am very happy that the team was able to fulfil their goal of winning their 9th straight win in the Under 10-litre Class. While Car 1 had to withdraw from the race, I'm glad that Car 2 was able to deliver the results that we had hoped for. We intend to continue our various activities as Hino Motors.’