Solid opening stage for Husqvarna Factory Racing at 2023 Sonora Rally

Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Skyler Howes has got his Sonora Rally title defence off to a strong start with a sixth-place finish on stage one. Luciano Benavides, who is riding the event for the first time, finished just 16 seconds back from his teammate in eighth.

Setting off as the fifth rider into today’s 170-kilometer timed special, Howes fell foul of the same tricky-to-navigate road book note that resulted in many of the leading pack losing time. Despite having to ride off-piste through the undergrowth, Skyler soon got himself back on track and maintained a solid pace to the finish. In completing the stage in sixth, the American will enjoy a strong start position for Tuesday’s stage two.

Also losing a couple of minutes early on, Benavides was able to regroup quickly and set off for the finish line without giving away too much time. The Argentinian felt right at home on the rocky tracks, despite the dust raised by those riders ahead of him. Bringing his FR 450 Rally home as eighth fastest, when combined with his excellent performance on Sunday’s short qualifying prologue, Luciano lies in provisional fifth overall.

Skyler Howes: “Today was really fast. The navigation was quite tricky too, the front guys did a good job but at around kilometre 50, we made a navigation mistake that cost us all some time. It was just a big flat area with a lot of tracks to choose from and we just got on the wrong track, and so that keeps pushing you off course a little until you can correct it. I tried to compensate by riding through the bushes, but there was a lot of cactuses and greenery that slowed me up and so I got lost for a couple of minutes there. I rode pretty good, I’ve just got to stay a little more precise to make sure I don’t make any more mistakes. Today had a lot of dust and it was really slippery, so I’m looking forward to heading north and getting a bit more sand. All in all, not a bad start to my rally.”

Luciano Benavides: “It was a really good stage for me. My feeling on the bike was good and so I was able to keep up a strong pace for the whole stage. It was slippery and dusty in places, and I think I made a similar mistake to everyone else early on, but after that, I found my rhythm. My pace was good, and I’ve got a strong start position for day two. I’m looking forward to it.”

2023 Sonora Rally – Stage 1 Provisional Classification

1. Tosha Schareina (Honda) 1:33:25
2. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 1:33:31
3. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 1:34:06
4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 1:34:31
5. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 1:35:29
6. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 1:35:38

8. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 1:35:54

2023 Sonora Rally – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 1]

1. Tosha Schareina (Honda) 2:17:57
2. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 2:18:51
3. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 2:19:26
4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 2:20:15
5. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 2:20:18
6. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 2:20:25

8. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 2:20:50