Luciano Benavides eighth fastest on Dakar stage seven

Battling his way through a tough stage seven of the 2021 Dakar Rally to finish eighth fastest, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides now holds 10th in the provisional overall standings. Joining his teammate at this evening’s marathon stage bivouac, Pablo Quintanilla claimed 15th on the stage and lies 12th overall.

Marking the first half of the event’s marathon stage, and including a 453km timed special, day seven at the Dakar proved a tough one for all competitors. While focusing on their navigation, riders also had to preserve their machines as no outside mechanical assistance was allowed at the bivouac overnight.

Setting off as the 14th rider to enter the stage, Luciano Benavides found himself having to pass a number of riders to make up time on his rivals. Putting in a strong ride, the Argentinian increased his position to sixth by kilometre 398. A small error after the final checkpoint resulted in him losing a couple of minutes, but Benavides was able to defend his top-10 position to the line, finally finishing the day in eighth and moving up to 10th in the provisional overall standings.

Highly experienced rally racer Pablo Quintanilla took a steady approach to the day’s special, minimising any possible mistakes and conserving his FR 450 Rally machine. In finishing the stage in 15th, the Chilean rider now sits 12th in the general rankings.

Luciano Benavides: “Everything went well today – I feel good, the bike is good – I did get lost a bit at the end but thankfully didn’t lose too much time. I had a much better feeling on the bike, so enjoyed the stage a lot more. I was caught by my brother so was able to ride with him for a little bit, which was nice. Overall, it was a solid day for me, the terrain was mostly sandy and fast but there were some rocks hidden in places. My tyres look good, but tomorrow will be another long day, we’re still in the fight so I will try my best again.”

Pablo Quintanilla: “Today was the first half of the marathon stage and it was quite a tough special. With the early part being wet, sandy tracks it was difficult to keep the bike straight in some places. Because of that it was hard to get into a fast rhythm and so bearing in mind we have no assistance today, I decided to just get to the finish safely and save the bike. I focused on my navigation and in the end, finished without problems.”

Stage eight of the rally – the second half of the marathon stage – will see riders cover a total of 709km, of which, 375km will be timed special, ridden against the clock. The route to Neom will consist of a mixture of sandy tracks and rocky pistes, with tricky navigation testing riders’ road book skills.

2021 Dakar Rally – Stage 7 Provisional Classification

1. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 4:37:44
2. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 4:39:51
3. Skyler Howes (KTM) 4:40:03
4. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 4:40:36
5. Daniel Sanders (KTM) 4:40:58
6. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 4:41:41

8. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 4:43:33
15. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 4:47:36

2021 Dakar Rally – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 7)

1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 28:51:31
2. Toby Price (KTM) 28:51:32
3. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 28:53:42
4. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 28:54:05
5. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 28:59:00
6. Joan Barreda (Honda) 29:01:49

10. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 29:08:38
12. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 29:11:32