Husqvarna Factory Racing riders Skyler Howes and Luciano Benavides have successfully completed the opening stage of the 2023 Dakar Rally. As the fourth competitor into the stage, Howes raced up front for the majority of the timed special to ultimately post the eighth quickest time. Teammate Benavides lost some minutes early on but fought back to complete the stage in 15th.
It was a tough opening day for the Husqvarna Factory Racing team, but both riders made the maximum use of their skill, speed, and experience to minimise any time lost and finish inside the top 15. Skyler and Luciano will however be looking to benefit from their advantageous start positions on the second stage of the race tomorrow.
After a small issue on the event’s opening prologue qualifier, Skyler Howes found himself down on time and forced to start the 367-kilometre timed special on stage one right near the front. Overtaking two of the three riders ahead of him, Skyler had to put maximum focus into his navigation but was able to hold his own to bring his FR 450 Rally home in a highly commendable eighth place. With today’s result combined with his time from the prologue, Howes lies in provisional ninth overall.
Luciano Benavides made a strong start to his first timed special of the event, but a small mistake with his navigation cost him dearly around one third of the way into the stage. Forced to retrace his lines, Benavides lost valuable minutes on his rivals, but was able to gain back some of that lost time by putting in a charge over the second half of the day. Completing the stage in 15th place, Luciano lies in provisional 14th overall, but will aim to push hard once again on Monday’s stage two.
Skyler Howes: “Honestly, I was quite nervous heading into stage one today. You spend the whole year preparing for this event, and starting out today, I had a lot of butterflies. It was a little stressful at first because I knew I would be right near the front, but the rider ahead did a great job of opening the stage, so I was able to relax a little. I made a couple of small mistakes with my navigation, but apart from that, the day went really well. The Dakar is all about managing whatever is thrown at you and so I’m happy with how the race has started – the bike feels great, I have a good start position for tomorrow and I’m excited to continue.”
Luciano Benavides: “Day one has not been the best for me. Things were going well, and I was feeling good on the bike, but around kilometre 55 I made a small mistake and missed one piste. That ended up in me circling around to find my way again. Unfortunately, it meant I lost almost 10 minutes and had to find my focus again. I managed to up my pace on the second half of the stage and get some time back. But as we know at Dakar, it’s a very long race and these things happen. Thankfully, to take some positives from the day, the bike performed really well, and I felt comfortable pushing hard. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 1 Provisional Classification
1. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 3:31:10
2. Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:31:54
3. Mason Klein (KTM) 3:31:54
4. Joan Barreda (Honda) 3:32:20
5. Toby Price (KTM) 3:32:59
6. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:33:00
8. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:34:17
15. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:40:21
2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 1]
1. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 4:14:10
2. Kevin Benavides (KTM) 4:14:29
3. Toby Price (KTM) 4:14:49
4. Joan Barreda (Honda) 4:14:55
5. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 4:14:55
6. Mason Klein (KTM) 4:15:24
9. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 4:19:22
14. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 4:23:51