This Sporting Life

A familiar sight at Australian motor sport events is the Hino Sports Deck which has become an integral part of the Supercars circus.
Hino Sports Deck at a Supercars race meet.

The Hino Sports Deck is based on a converted 40-foot shipping container and is a high profile feature of Hino’s ongoing sponsorship of the Supercars series.

This latest version is an all-new unit, replacing the original which was launched in 2016. Once onsite at a raceway event the Sports Deck unfolds, similarly to the fantastic characters from a Michael Bay Transformers movie, to provide a three-story hospitality venue complete with two 75-inch screens.

For self-sufficiency, the Sports Deck derives electrical power from a 7KvA generator with its own 200-litre fuel tank. The Sports Deck is towed by a Hino 700 Series SH1845 4×2 prime mover itself powered by Hino’s 13-litre 13C-BL engine which has peak power of 450hp (331kW) and 2157Nm of torque. The engine is well matched to the latest generation of the ZF 16-speed Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), the innovative two pedal TraXon TX 2441TO.

There’s less than 20 tonnes of weight involved in dragging the Sports Deck to events around the country so the driveline is not at all stressed on a Sydney to Melbourne trip such as this.

This is a ‘gentleman’s’ drive spread across two days with an overnight stop in nice accommodation at around the halfway point in Albury so there is no need to occupy the bunk or risk exceeding the limits of allowable log book hours. Simply drive the truck and enjoy it, even though the weather is not exactly ideal as we drive through some quite heavy showers along the way.

Driver’s vision is good through the generously sized windscreen and the aerodynamic, electronically adjustable heated mirrors and convex spotter mirrors, plus curb and front observation spotter mirrors, all of which are designed to remain reasonably clean despite the lousy weather.

A reversing camera is located at the rear of the Sports Deck trailer which will come in handy not just during normal use but when setting up in the often-tight confines of motor raceways.

A 4×2 prime mover towing a tri-axle skel trailer with a 40-foot container locked onto the pins is a common sight around Australian port precincts or even delivering groceries to suburban supermarkets, but it presents such an unusual combination on the Hume Highway that two of Victoria’s finest can’t help but activate their hidden red and blue lights and invite me to follow them to the nearest rest area.

After passing the alcohol test, the tongue dragging drug swab and even a look back through the past few trips recorded in the logbook, the two gentlemen in blue reveal to me that they had harboured just the slight suspicion that I was hauling something which may not have been kosher.

However, upon checking out that the container was actually the innovative Hino Sports Deck mobile promotional facility, conversation turned to the various merits or otherwise of their diesel 7-Series BMW compared with the petrol Hemi’s and LS engines so adored, and now missed, by Highway Patrol officers around the nation.

Hino 700 4x2 with triaxle skel trailer carrying a 40 foot container.
Hino 700 4×2 with triaxle skel trailer carrying a 40 foot container.

Back on the road, the braking performance of the Hino 700 is very impressive and features Hino’s Electronic Brake System (EBS) combined with the Hino Taper Roller brakes, which enhance braking performance and reduces maintenance requirements and provide a good ‘feel’ for the driver.

Standard auxiliary braking on 13-litre 700 Series models is handled by the genuine Jacobs Engine Brake system with the belt and braces addition of the ZF Intarder that is integrated into the rear of the transmission.

The ZF transmission is controlled via a shift dial gear selector on the dash for Drive, Neutral and Reverse, and features a slow mode in both forward and reverse for improved manoeuvrability control such as when connecting trailers or backing up to loading docks.

The dash-mounted dial selector is complemented by a sequential type shift lever on the steering column which allows the driver to switch the transmission mode between automatic and manual, and manually select gears without having to take their hands off the steering wheel. The TraXon is equipped with an Easy Start system which holds the brakes and assists with smooth take-off after stopping on a slope.

The Hino 700 is equipped with the comprehensive Hino SmartSafe safety package. It incorporates a number of driver assisting technologies taking an active focus on protecting drivers, passengers and other road users and this latest version now includes the Driver Monitor (DM) which has been refined since we last drove a 700, resulting in zero false alerts being triggered throughout the entire Sydney to Melbourne trip. Hino SmartSafe also includes a Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection (PD), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), the Reverse Camera and a suite of other standard safety features.

Hino has put a considerable amount of local effort into Hino-Connect, its next-generation advanced diagnostics and business intelligence system developed in Australia, which provides real-time performance data tracking, remote diagnosis of vehicle faults and dedicated Hino-Connect specialist support.

In the unlikely event of a severe fault the alert and possible remedy is sent straight to the driver via the multi-media screen on the dash, as well as an email to fleet manager and to a Hino-Connect specialist who will liaise with driver, owner and dealer to track and oversee the progress of the repair to get the vehicle back on the road quickly.

This level of support delivers a high level of confidence when the trucks are out on remote highways. Instead of the dolphin grey usually associated with Japanese truck interiors, the Hino has a contemporary interior trimmed with a balance of faux carbon fibre, silver and ‘earthy’ tones.

The wraparound dash creates a cockpit-like environment for the driver who benefits from the comfort of the latest generation ISRI seat which has air lumbar supports and a myriad of adjustments. The redesign of 700 Series cab allows for additional adjustability in rearward seat travel.

Combined with the tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustments, it can provide the ideal driving position for drivers of various shapes and sizes.

The ride is further smoothed due to the cab being remotely mounted on four-point air suspension, resulting in less vibration, less road noise and consequently reduced driver fatigue without feeling that you’re on a boat wallowing on the waves.

The interior temperature of the cab is maintained by automatic climate control, while the bunk is ADR42 sleeper compliant, and has interior light controls which can also be operated from the sleeper area.

The dash layout features large high contrast speedometer and tachometer, and a central 7-inch LCD Multi-Information Display that shows information such as the Hino SmartSafe settings, driving economy, gear selection and vehicle maintenance data and has Bluetooth and Android connectivity.

The Hino 700 Series has been a game changer for the manufacturer by delivering a credible candidate for a Japanese truck in the Australian Heavy Duty sector, bolstered by an extensive array of safety features.

It’s also a “drivers’ truck” due to its operational design, comfort and finish which make this inter-capital drive an easy and enjoyable experience.

The Sports Deck transformed for race day.
The Sports Deck transformed for race day.
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