Luciano Benavides fourth fastest on Dakar stage four

On what was another strong day for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, Luciano Benavides has put in his best ride of the 2021 Dakar Rally to date, securing fourth place on the ultra-fast stage four from Wadi Ad-Dawasir to Riyadh. Pablo Quintanilla also delivered a solid result on the 337km special, placing eighth, just over one-minute down on his teammate.

Following a long liaison section, Benavides was the 12th rider to enter the day’s timed special. Feeling comfortable onboard his FR 450 Rally, he was able to maintain an extremely fast pace over the stage’s open desert tracks. Enjoying a trouble-free ride, the Argentinian had moved into the top 10 by the halfway point and continued to push. A small mistake in the closing few kilometres of the special cost him a couple of minutes, but Luciano was able to defend his top-five position, ultimately crossing the line as fourth fastest. The result means Benavides will start Thursday’s stage up near the front, requiring both accurate navigation and supreme focus.

Making the most of his cross-country rally experience, Pablo Quintanilla rode maturely on stage four, completing the day in eighth to secure 10th overall in the provisional standings. Riding safely through the stage and focusing on his road book notes, Pablo maintained a top-three position through to kilometre 268. Although they didn’t cost him too much time, a couple of small errors towards the end of the special dropped the former world champion down the order. With an encouraging start position for stage five, Quintanilla will be aiming to push and make up valuable minutes on the event leaders.

Luciano Benavides: “It’s been a very long day today – over 800 kilometres on the bike and a very fast special to race through. Although the speeds were high, like last year’s race, the navigation was a lot more difficult and so you had to stay focused for the whole stage. I’m definitely happy with my pace and how I rode the stage, the bike has been great as well. Tomorrow I start up near the front and we’re being told that stage five is going to be very technical, so it will be a good test of my skills.”

Pablo Quintanilla: “I’m happy with my day today. On a fast stage like this all of the top guys can keep a really similar pace, so it’s important not to push too hard in case you make a mistake that can end up costing you a lot of time. Other than around 10 minutes of dunes, the whole day was almost flat out – there were just some tricky notes towards the end as we raced through some canyons. Finishing the stage in eighth has worked out really well as I didn’t lose too much time on the leaders, but it means I have a good start position for tomorrow, which looks like it will be a lot tougher in terms of navigation. If I can keep up the same pace tomorrow, I’ll be happy.”

Completing stage four in fifth place, experienced rally racer Xavier de Soultrait now leads the provisional overall standings. The HT Rally Raid rider has shown incredible pace on his factory-supported Husqvarna FR 450 Rally.

Thursday’s stage five of the 2021 Rally takes riders from the country’s capital of Riyadh through to Al Qaisumah. Although shorter than today at a total of 662km, the 456km special promises to be extremely technical, with tough navigation once again.

2021 Dakar Rally – Stage 4 Provisional Classification

1. Joan Barreda (Honda) 2:46:50
2. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 2:52:47
3. Daniel Sanders (KTM) 2:52:59
4. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 2:53:12
5. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 2:54:09
6. Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) 2:54:11

8. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 2:54:24

2021 Dakar Rally – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 4)

1. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 15:00:25
2. Joan Barreda (Honda) 15:00:40
3. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 15:03:49
4. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 15:04:49
5. Skyler Howes (KTM) 15:04:51
6. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 15:05:56

10. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 15:09:56