Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Skyler Howes has won stage two of Rally Kazakhstan. Showing huge skill and speed on his FR 450 Rally, the American rider now lies second overall in the provisional rally standings, just 22 seconds down on the event leader. Luciano Benavides enjoyed a more promising day in the Kazakhstani desert. With his confidence improving, the Argentinian claimed seventh place, six and a half minutes down on his teammate.
Continuing to impress on his FIM Cross-Country Rallies debut for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, Howes was the third rider to enter stage two and immediately set about chasing down the two riders ahead of him. Covering the fast 280km timed special in just less than two hours and 40 minutes, the American was able to minimise any mistakes and maintain a fast, calculated pace on the open pistes of the route. Reaching the finish with a one-minute-and-ten-second advantage over the second-placed rider was enough for Howes to elevate himself to second overall in the standings. He will now be the first rider to face the second half of the event’s marathon stage on day three but hopes to continue right at the sharp end of the results and not lose too much time to the chasing pack.
Rally Kazakhstan marks Luciano Benavides’ return to competitive competition following the race-ending crash he suffered at the Dakar Rally, earlier this year. As such the young Argentinian continues to build back his confidence and pace as the event progresses. Placing seventh on stage two, Benavides moves up from 11th overall to eighth, and with three long days of racing ahead of him, he hopes to make up even more time over the next few stages.
Skyler Howes: “That was a fast stage today – really, really fast. Before the refuelling I had a couple of scary moments in some rain ruts, but after that I was able to gather myself together and put the hammer back down. I actually had a lot of fun racing through the fast trails, and everything went good – the navigation went ok, I only made a few tiny mistakes like going past a corner too far, but otherwise, no major errors at all. The day went well, and I was able to go fastest on the special, which only puts me 22 seconds off the rally lead so that feels good. Now I must lead out tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes, but otherwise I’m having a lot of fun.”
Luciano Benavides: “Stage two went well for me today. It was a really fast stage, and I am happy with my pace and my rhythm because I was able to maintain my focus for the whole stage. I made a couple of small navigation errors, and the result isn’t quite where I would want to be, but overall, I’m pleased with how things are going so far. On the very fastest sections today I struggled with the wind a bit so eased off just a little to make sure I didn’t make a mistake. I can feel my confidence coming back and so I will keep trying my best every day and hopefully move myself up the leaderboard.”
Friday’s stage three of the 2021 Rally Kazakhstan makes up the second half of the event’s marathon stage. Riders will leave the bivouac at Kenderly and head further east before looping back on a long liaison section to Aktau. Totalling 533km, the stage includes a tough timed special of 331km.
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Stage 2 Provisional Classification
1. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 2:39:45
2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 2:40:55
3. Andrew Short (Yamaha) 2:43:00
4. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 2:44:05
5. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 2:44:27
6. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 2:44:59
7. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 2:46:16
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 2)
1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 6:02:59
2. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 6:03:21
3. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 6:03:58
4. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 6:11:47
5. Andrew Short (Yamaha) 6:15:38
6. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 6:15:43
8. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 6:32:28