Hino will be entering two trucks in the 2017 Dakar Rally in South America, aiming to extend its record of 26 consecutive finishes in the gruelling, 9 000km-long event. Additionally, for the eighth consecutive time, the manufacturer has its sights set on winning the class for trucks with engine capacities of less than 10 litres.

The vehicles – Hino 500s – represent the only Japanese brand in their category and will again be managed by Team Sugawara. Hino No 1 is based on the truck that raced in the 2016 event with upgrades to its suspension as well as to its 9,0-litre, straight-six, turbocharged engine. The unit is said to develop 650 horsepower and 2 255Nm of torque.

Truck No 2 is new for the 2017 event but raced earlier this year in the 11 000km, Moscow to Beijing Silk Way Rally. Following that shakedown, it features components that are said to offer improved durability. Each of the vehicles is fitted with six-speed transmissions, with Hino No 1 featuring part-time four-wheel drive and No 2 equipped with full-time four-wheel drive.

As before, the lead truck 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 navigator. These are the only two-man crews on the event, with all the other truck racers opting for a crew of three.

Yoshimasa, 74, who is the team’s director, has entered 33 consecutive Dakar Rallies – a record. He is the only Japanese to have competed in the motorcycle, quad bike, car and truck categories and boasts the most number of consecutive finishes – 25. Teruhito contested the Dakar Rally for the 18th time in 2016. He has finished the race 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 Yoshimasa had driven a Hino and he has continued to do so since then.

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