Following on from their outstanding Husqvarna Factory Racing one-two on stage six of the 2023 Dakar Rally, Skyler Howes and Luciano Benavides had the unenviable task of opening the timed special on day eight – a stage the organisers promised to be one of the toughest so far in terms of navigation. The FR 450 Rally mounted duo completed the stage in 19th and 21st respectively.
Catching his teammate by kilometre 147, Howes then rode together with Benavides through to the finish. Choosing to ensure accurate navigation rather than risk losing a large amount of time through an unforced error, Howes maintained a solid but calculated pace through the 346-kilometre special to complete the stage in 19th place. Although the result reduced his advantage in the overall standings, Skyler still remains top, one minute and 13 seconds ahead of the second-placed rider.
Despite making good progress right from the start, it was always going to be a massive task for Luciano Benavides to not lose too much time to his chasing rivals through the stage. With heavy rain falling across the desert for a number of days, the sand had become very wet on the surface, making it even easier to follow the tracks left from those in front.
Using his skill and experience to deliver a near mistake-free ride from the front, Benavides was able to build his pace over the course of the special to ultimately post the 21st quickest time. Completing the stage just over 16 minutes down on the eventual winner, Luciano now lies in a highly commendable 11th place in the provisional overall rankings.
With Monday being rest day for all competitors, both Howes and Benavides will enjoy strong start positions for Tuesday’s challenging stage nine – a 686-kilometre leg that includes a timed special of 358 kilometres.
Skyler Howes: “A tough day to open today. We ended up riding in a group of three at the front, and although I think we did a really good job with the navigation, we took a little while to do it. The dirt is really wet, so that leaves a perfectly clear line for anyone following, and of course it makes it far easier to make up time on those ahead. I’d rather lose a few minutes than be going home though, so overall, I’m happy with how the day turned out and I'm still ahead in the overall. It’s rest day now, and that’s always an important milestone to hit. We knew the first half of this year’s event would be tough, and it was! Time to relax a little now before focusing on the final push to the finish next week.”
Luciano Benavides: “Today was a really tricky day. It was always going to be difficult to open a stage like today, especially after the bad weather and with such technical navigation. Today was one of the hardest days to open, but I think did a good job from the front, I took my time and was careful not to make any big mistakes. Unfortunately with the sand like it was, the guys behind were really able to follow the tracks in front of them and make up a lot of time. Physically, I'm feeling really good, the bike has been great all through this first week, too. I'll get some rest tomorrow and then aim to push next week and hopefully make up some places on the race."
2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 8 Provisional Classification
1. Ross Branch (Hero) 3:46:18
2. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:49:33
3. Mason Klein (KTM) 3:49:51
4. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:52:47
5. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 3:52:53
6. Michael Docherty (Husqvarna) 3:54:18
19. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 4:01:24
21. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 4:02:49
2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 8]
1. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 30:33:16
2. Kevin Benavides (KTM) 30:34:29
3. Mason Klein (KTM) 30:34:29
4. Toby Price (KTM) 30:36:14
5. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 30:37:01
6. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 30:37:05
11. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 30:58:48