Tough opening day for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing at 2021 Rallye du Maroc

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides has completed his first full stage riding the new 2022 FR 450 Rally in a solid ninth place. A navigation error while running in fourth dropped teammate Skyler Howes down to 23rd after losing his way in a visibility-reducing sandstorm.

The opening day of the 2021 Rallye du Maroc proved to be a real challenge for all riders. A sandstorm that appeared midway through the stage made an already tricky-to-navigate special become extra demanding, especially for those opening the route.

Luciano Benavides was able to successfully make it through the storm without losing too much time to the riders behind to maintain a top-10 position. Enjoying racing the new version of the FR 450 Rally in its first, full competitive stage, Benavides was also able to find a strong rhythm in both the dunes and fast, stony tracks – a positive step both for him and the development of the new bike. Now with four more days of racing, and a good start number for stage two, the young Argentinian is in a strong position to fight his way up the standings tomorrow.

Setting off just behind his teammate and showing good pace on the first half of the stage, Skyler Howes was one of many riders to fall foul of the sandstorm and ended up losing a considerable amount of time while re-finding his way. After recovering, the American was able to get his head down for the remainder of the special, and not lose any more time to the front runners. Unfortunately, ending the day in 23rd place, over 40 minutes down on the winner, puts Howes on the back foot for the rest of the race. However, with four more days to go, Skyler is upbeat and keen to give it his all on the remaining stages.

The second stage of the Rallye du Maroc will be another looped stage, starting and finishing in Zagora. Riders will cover a total of 609.22 kilometres, 334.66 of which will be timed special stage.

Luciano Benavides: “It feels good to finish the first stage of the Rallye du Maroc. The bike feels great, and my confidence is coming back, so I had a good day today. Navigation was really tricky and there was a sandstorm in the first part of the stage that made things even more difficult. The rest went well – I just tried to stay on the pistes and not make any mistakes. There is still some room to improve, but I have a good start position for tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”

Skyler Howes: “I got off to a really good start today and felt comfortable on the bike. I was holding a moderate pace and the bike was performing well. Around kilometre 125, I made a mistake in the sandstorm and got lost. It was a big mental battle to try and get back to where I should be, and at the end of it all I ended up losing around 40 minutes. From there on out, things went really smoothly to the end of the stage, but of course it’s frustrating to lose so much time early on. I’ll try and stay positive for the four more days ahead.”

2021 Rallye du Maroc – Stage 1 Provisional Classification

1. Joan Barreda (Honda) 2:58:53
2. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 3:00:03
3. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:01:52
4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:05:43
5. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:06:24
6. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 3:08:44

9. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:12:13
23. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:40:33

2021 Rally du Maroc – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 1]

1. Joan Barreda (Honda) 3:25:57
2. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 3:26:51
3. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:29:08
4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:31:39
5. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:32:56
6. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 3:34:52

8. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:37:41
23. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 4:06:01