Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Skyler Howes has stormed to second place on the fifth and final stage of the 2022 Rallye du Maroc to secure his first ever FIM World Rally-Raid Championship win. The American completed five incredible days of rally racing in the Moroccan desert to ultimately finish just over seven minutes ahead of second-placed Luciano Benavides.
Right from the start of this year’s Rallye du Maroc, both Skyler Howes and Luciano Benavides were able to deliver solid stage results day after day as they fought for the overall honours in Morocco. A one-two finish on day three saw the FR 450 Rally-mounted racers rise to the top of the event standings, and despite losing a little time while opening stage four, the pair reclaimed the top two positions on Thursday’s stage five with an excellent display of speed and navigation over the 290-kilometre timed special.
As the sixth rider into today’s stage, Skyler knew he would have an excellent opportunity to chase down and catch the riders ahead and in turn make up the valuable minutes he needed to finish on the podium. Remaining focussed, despite the added pressure, Howes delivered an impressive ride on the route back to Agadir, making the absolute minimum of errors to place second on the stage, just six seconds behind the leader. The result was enough to top the final rally timesheets by seven minutes and 13 seconds and secure a memorable overall victory in Morocco.
Howes’ victory marks the 30-year-old’s first world championship race win, an impressive achievement that comes down to not only the commitment put in by himself and the team over the year developing the FR 450 Rally, but also Skyler’s focus and work ethic. Now, with his confidence high, the likeable American will shift his attention to the Sonora Rally in Mexico later this month.
Finishing stage five in third, a mere nine seconds behind teammate Howes, Luciano Benavides cemented himself into second place in the overall results. Including Benavides’ impressive stage win on day three, the young Argentinian displayed immense skill and pace over the course of the five-day event to claim a well-deserved podium. Feeling hugely comfortable on his FR 450 Rally following a summer of training and testing with the team, Luciano’s confidence and pace is now at an all-time high. Benavides now looks forward to carrying his momentum through to the final round of the season, and on to the Dakar Rally, beginning late December.
Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides will return to FIM World Rally-Raid Championship action at the final round of the season, the Andalucia Rally in Spain, from October 18-23. Skyler Howes will be absent from Spain while he competes at the Sonora Rally in Mexico.
Skyler Howes: “We’re at the finish of the Morocco Rally and I finished first, which is super cool! The final stage was quite technical actually, it wasn’t a walk in the park. The navigation was tricky, and I did a couple of circles out there which slowed me down a little bit. I was still able to finish second on the stage, which was enough to win the overall, and I have to admit it’s the coolest thing of my whole life! Honestly, I’m over the moon. It’s a dream come true to take the win here in Morocco, and the plan is to carry this momentum on to the Dakar Rally.”
Luciano Benavides: “We’ve finished stage five, the last day of the rally. I really wanted to go for the stage win today but made a small mistake that ended up costing me some time. Nevertheless, I finished third on the stage, really close to the winner and second overall, which is amazing. I can’t describe this moment – I have worked so hard since last year to be in this position right now, and to have such a good feeling on the bike. It’s not only me, but the whole team have also done an incredible job on the bike and have worked so hard here in Morocco. This result is a big thank you to them. I can’t wait for Andalucia now, the next round, and of course the Dakar in January.”
2022 Rallye du Maroc – Stage 5 Provisional Classification
1. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 1:37:30
2. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 1:37:36
3. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 1:37:47
4. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 1:39:00
5. Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 1:40:05
6. Ross Branch (Hero) 1:41:14
2022 Rallye du Maroc – Provisional Overall Classification (after final stage)
1. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 16:30:29
2. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 16:37:42
3. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 16:41:17
4. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 16:42:36
5. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 16:45:20
6. Kevin Benavides (KTM) 16:50:40