Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Skyler Howes and Luciano Benavides are excited to get their 2023 Dakar Rally campaigns underway. Following their stellar 2022 season, both FR 450 Rally riders are motivated and confident ahead of the start of the opening round of the 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship, held in Saudi Arabia.
Coming into the 2023 Dakar Rally, Skyler Howes has shown incredible pace over the past 12 months, including a win at the tough Rallye du Maroc – Howes’ first world championship victory. The speed and results are due in part to the hard work put in by the whole team in developing the latest 2023 model FR 450 Rally.
Feeling fit and better prepared than ever to take on the gruelling 8,500 kilometres of the 2023 Dakar, the American is fully focused on delivering his best ever performance at the iconic event. With 14 full stages to cover and over 4,700 kilometres raced against the clock, Howes feels the long nature of the rally, as well as the increased value placed on accurate navigation, should suit his skills and style.
Having also enjoyed a stand-out 2022 season in which he claimed podium results in Morocco and Andalucia, Luciano Benavides is on top form and hungry for success at the Dakar. The 2022 event didn’t go as planned for the Argentinian as he suffered from the same first day navigational issue that caught out many of the front runners. However, quickly regrouping and fighting back up the order gave Benavides the confidence he needed to attack the remainder of the season.
Finding the changes and development made to the FR 450 Rally perfectly suited to his riding style, Luciano feels comfortable to push hard over all varied terrain while also being able to focus on his navigation – something that could prove key over the course the long, upcoming race. With added rule changes that reward riders who open stages coming into effect in 2023, strategy and the ability to read the terrain, and the road book, will be more important than ever.
The 2023 Dakar Rally starts with a short 11-kilometre prologue on December 31 to decide the start order for stage one. The event then covers 14 full days of racing with riders covering a total distance of 8,549 kilometres, 4,706 of which will be timed special stages raced against the clock. The rally comes to a close on Sunday, January 15 in Dammam.
Skyler Howes: “I’m really looking forward to beginning the 2023 Dakar Rally adventure that awaits us. I’m super excited to get started actually, this year I feel a lot more relaxed than at previous Dakars, and that is great for my confidence. Of course, there is still a lot of riding and racing that faces us over the next two weeks or so, and it’s definitely going to be a tough Dakar. But it’s these longer, more challenging events that seem to suit my riding and my mindset. There are going to be a lot of changes this year with new the rules and that means different strategies, but I think it’s good. It’s always tricky when they bring in these rule changes, but we’re all in the same boat here and we’ll have to figure it out as best we can. At the end of the day, all I can do is my best, and that’s what I plan to do – have a cool, fun time racing my Husqvarna through Saudi Arabia.”
Luciano Benavides: “We’re almost ready for the start of the race now. I have prepared more than ever for the 2023 race, and I’m in a really good place to give the event my absolute best. It’s going to be a really long race this year – the longest for around eight years – it means it’s going to be a really tough Dakar, especially the second week through the dunes of the Empty Quarter. Mentally and physically I’m feeling good, and my pace has been really competitive over the course of 2022. I truly feel I have a good shot at securing a top result, I just need to remain focused each day and not make any mistakes as I think they will have a huge impact this year.”