Hino Team Sugawara Confirms 2023 Dakar Efforts Despite Parents’ Emissions Scandal
In a class typically dominated by Russian (until this year) and European builders, Hino engines has been a regular representative of Japan in the Dakar Rally‘s Truck since 1991. Although the truck manufacturer is embroiled in a massive emissions scandal, the racing arm Team Hino Sugawara intends to compete in the 2023 Rally with Teruhito Sugawara as a driver.
The Sugawara team uses a truck inspired by the Hino 600 series. They introduced a hybrid system to the vehicle for the 2022 Rally, and Sugawara regularly raced in the top twenty before a transmission failed in the penultimate step relegates him to twenty-second in class.
Sugawara, also a team manager, has been racing in Dakar since 1999 with his father Yoshimasa Sugawara. Yoshimasa developed the Hino Dakar operation from its inception and continued racing well into his seventies; on his last start in 2019, he was 77 and set the record for the most consecutive Dakar starts with thirty-six from 1986. The father/son duo were runners-up in 2001.
After working as a co-driver for his father, the young Sugawara became the main driver himself from 2005, achieving his best overall result to date in said sixth-grade race (he repeated the finish in 2018). While KAMAZ and IVECO are still the best trucks, Sugawara and Hino were the top performing team among trucks with an engine displacement of less than ten liters (10,000 cc).
In March, Hino Motors admitted to falsifying the emissions and fuel data of more than 643,000 vehicles, and an August revelation showed it had been happening since 2003. Perhaps providing another example of the environmental Japan’s infamous labor union, Hino blamed the situation on a poor corporate culture that allows these violations to be concealed from management. The fallout prompted the company to suspend shipments of light trucks while Toyota, which owns a majority stake in Hino, and Isuzu ousted it from the Japan Business Partnership Technologies truck consortium.
As the situation continued to escalate, the team remained silent before finally issuing a statement a month before Rally 2023. It is not uncommon for controversies plaguing automotive companies to extend to their racing divisions such that Volkswagen killing off its World Rally Championship program following its own emissions scandal, although Sugawara has allayed concerns about the same here.
“We would like to express our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused by the series of fraudulent incidents at Hino Motors,” said Sugawara. “It was a difficult situation to continue our activities, but we received words of encouragement, support and cooperation from many people, and we were able to prepare to participate in the next race.
“The Dakar Rally, which is said to be the most difficult in the world, will open a new page for us with the power to continue, the power to never give up and the power to unite.
“Please look forward to the success of Team Hino Sugawara!”
The 2023 Dakar Rally will start on December 31, 2022.