With week one of the 44th Dakar Rally completed in Saudi Arabia, Husqvarna Factory Racing now looks ahead to the second half of the 2022 event, and what are expected to be some of the toughest challenges yet. In what has been a mixed race in terms of results and fortunes, Luciano Benavides continues as the sole rider for the team following the unfortunate crash and subsequent withdrawal of Skyler Howes on stage five.
Luciano has delivered strong, consistent results with the minimum of mistakes to lie 17th overall heading into the second week of racing. Top-10 results on stages four and five show that Benavides is definitely on the pace and gelling well with the latest version of the FR 450 Rally.
With the six stages left to race looking like they will pose a huge test to all riders with more technical terrain, rocky pistes, riverbeds, and canyons, Luciano is keen to make full use of his experience to further close the gap on those ahead of him and challenge for a top result. The former FIM Cross-Country Rallies Junior World Champion will enjoy a well-deserved rest day in Riyadh today, Saturday, before continuing his 2022 Dakar Rally campaign with Sunday’s stage seven.
Lying eighth at the close of stage four, and still very much in the hunt for an overall podium result, Skyler Howes unfortunately suffered a crash on Thursday’s stage five. Although the American was able to make it to the end of the special, medics insisted he was taken to hospital for assessment, where thankfully no serious injuries were found. Although Skyler won’t play any further part in the 2022 Dakar, he is expected to make a fast and full recovery and be back riding soon.
Luciano Benavides: “Looking back over my first week at this year’s Dakar gives me a mixture of feelings. On one hand, losing so much time on the first day, with that tricky note in the roadbook, really put me on the back foot straight away. On the other hand, I’m really happy with how I have been riding and navigating through the rest of the race – if it wasn’t for that first day I would be right up there with the leaders, and that’s really encouraging going into the second week. In terms of my feeling and riding, I think it’s my best Dakar ever, so far. The bike is working good and the team are doing a great job. I also believe I am better prepared mentally this year. It has meant I’m able to keep a good rhythm for the entire stage, and in turn that means there’s less chance of making a mistake. Looking ahead to week two, I think the navigation will be the biggest challenge. From previous years the rocky sections and the canyons have always been difficult to navigate through accurately and a wrong turn can end up costing a huge amount of time. The goal for the second week is to treat it like a new race – forget about the times and put in six really strong days. Hopefully then I can get some strong stage results and prove that I am capable of fighting for the top places.”
Norbert Stadlbauer – Rally Team Manager: “I’m really pleased with how things have been going up to now with the whole team. Obviously, it’s a great shame to lose Skyler from the race, but thankfully he is doing ok, and we hope to see him back with us soon. The race has been up and down every single day – but that’s Dakar! It definitely seemed to be extremely difficult straight away this year in terms of the navigation and the route – normally the challenge increases as the race goes on. Luciano has been riding well, his pace is there and mentally he seems very strong. It’s a shame he fell foul of the tricky note in the roadbook on day one, it’s tough to lose an hour so early in the race, but he has stayed focused and has done a great job of building his speed. Looking ahead to next week, Luciano is fit and really motivated, if he can continue putting in the sort of performances he’s delivered over the last few days, he should be set for a strong result.”
2022 Dakar Rally – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 6)
1. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 19:55:59
2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 19:58:38
3. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 20:01:34
4. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 20:03:42
5. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 20:13:43
6. Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco) 20:14:21
17. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 20:59:35