|Dakar Rally 2015: Dakar Tour has visited Tokyo and the Japanese competitors|
The Dakar is characterised by its increasingly varied and international field of competitors. It partially owes this distinction to Japanese riders and drivers, who were the first to bring this cultural diversity to the rally.
As early as in 1983, Yoshimasa Sugawara made his appearance on the race, on a bike, before becoming the most loyal and consistent competitor, with 26 Dakar rallies completed out of 31 participations.
Aside from Hino, its emblematic truck manufacturer, and despite not having boasted a delegation of imposing size, Japan has illustrated itself with three victories in the car category during the era dominated by the Mitsubishis, with Kenjiro Shinozuka (in 1997) then Hiroshi Masuoka (in 2002 and 2003). Jun Mitsuhashi has taken up the reins in a certain way by becoming the record holder in the Production category, with a fourth success for the Toyota Autobody team last January.
However, it was with the focus clearly on the future that the riders, drivers and media interested by the Dakar came together in Tokyo at the end of last week. At present, Japan’s standing on the rally is represented by the strength of its constructors. This is precisely the message put across by Giniel De Villiers, who has twice climbed on to the podium behind the wheel of a Toyota Hilux (3rd in 2012 and 2nd in 2013), "and we have every intention of winning the title in 2015," declared the South African driver.
With its Portuguese and Spanish ambassadors, the Honda Racing team (HRC) has also demonstrated its ambition to fight for the title in the bike category, whilst the Yamaha-Europe team again put a rider on the final podium. What’s more, the next Japanese competitor likely to emerge at this level was perhaps among the audience.
2014/04/23 | 11:12 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/ASO