A switch to automatic transmissions has helped legendary Dakar rally raid truck competitors, Hino Team Sugawara start a staged switch from traditional manual gearboxes to automatic transmissions  with the team successfully running an Allison equipped Hino 600 in the grueling Dakar event earlier this year.

The Sugawara Hino team  ran its traditional Hino 500 with a manual and alongside the automatic Hio 600 in thetruck division of the 2020 Dakar race in Saudi Arabia held over 12 days from January 5-17, 2020.

In early 2019,Hino Team Sugawara reorganized the team to aim for greater heights under team director, Teruhito Sugawara. While “Car 1” had a manual transmission, “Car 2” was equipped with an Allison 3200 automatictransmission with the aim of improving its performance in the rugged desert terrain.

“Car 2” was based on the Hino 600 designed for the North American truck market and included off road driver Ikuo Hanawa, co-driver Yudai Hanawa and mechanic Mayumi Kezuka.

Hanawa is a well-known global off-road racer with more than 40 years of off-road racing experience, including 100-plus wins and the honour  of being the first Japanese racer to place in the top five of the famed Baja 1000 in Mexico where he also became a class champion in 2002.

“Over the last 20 years, I have participated and won many races with vehicles equipped with automatictransmissions,” said Hanawa san.

“It is essential to have an automatic transmission as it provides you with a powerful acceleration and durability intough off-road races. I was able to drive with confidence as “Car 2” was equipped with the Allison 3200 automatictransmission.

“A manual-equipped vehicle will cause a slow down during a race as the traction power is interrupted during a shift change,” said Hanawa.

“But, with the Allison automatic transmission, the traction power is uninterrupted regardless of the driving conditionsand drivers can accelerate and decelerate the speed as they like.”

The Allison 3200 fully automatic transmission utilizes a patented torque converter as a launching device, offeringsuperior performance and eliminating clutch replacements. Its Continuous Power Technology allows engine torquemultiplication at launch and uninterrupted power delivery to the wheels.

As a result, vehicles equipped with Allison Automatics not only accelerate faster, they are more efficient within thebest duty-cycle speeds and achieves optimal maneuvering in either confined city spaces or in rough desert terrain.

“During off-road racing, the vehicle sometimes flies into the air while negotiating rough terrain. At this crucial time,the driver must brake to shift down and prepare for landing,” said Hanawa san.

“Upon impact of landing, even if the tires push the transmission backward, the torque converter absorbs the impact and reduces the torsional on the propeller shaft preventing the transmission housing from cracking.

“Previously, controlling the transmission oil temperature was one of the most important factors in the durability of anautomatic transmission,” said Hanawa.

“Surprisingly, the Allison automatic transmission with integral oil cooler can maintain the oil temperature at around82 to 83 degrees Celsius under high ambient temperatures and tough road conditions. Thanks to this cooling performance, I was able to drive in tough conditions without any worries.” He also emphasised that automatic transmissions do not need to shift gears and clutches, which enabled drivers to grip firmly on the steering wheel and concentrate on racing.