Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides has claimed his second stage win of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The FR 450 Rally rider took advantage of his later start position to make up the maximum time on his rivals. Skyler Howes, who earned three and a half minutes in bonuses today for opening part of the stage, placed fifth.
Similarly to his winning performance on stage two, Benavides demonstrated his immense pace and skill at reading the mixed terrain, right from the start this morning. The Argentinian was ahead on time straight away, opening up a one-minute advantage on his rivals by around 100 kilometres into the 308-kilometre timed special. He increased that advantage to well over three minutes by the finish, despite not earning any bonus time.
His excellent winning result on stage four moves Luciano up into second place in the provisional overall rally standings, where he trails the current leader by under three minutes. Despite having to open the fifth and final stage of the race tomorrow, the 27-year-old will give his all and aim to finish his 2023 ADDC on a high.
As the third rider into today’s special, Skyler Howes was always going to face a difficult task of assisting in the opening of the stage. Catching the leading riders relatively early in the special, Howes maintained a solid but safe pace at the front, reducing any risks to himself or his FR 450 Rally machine. Crossing the finish line in fifth, five and a half minutes down on teammate Benavides, was a huge testament to the Americans focus and endurance. Skyler also lies fifth in the overall standings with one day left to race.
Luciano Benavides: “It was a really good day in the desert for me. After the delay this morning, I was really motivated to push as hard as I could right from the start and try to make up as much time as I could to the guys in front. This stage on last year’s race was the first stage I had ever won, so it was nice to top the timesheets again this year. The bike is working really well, and I’m really happy with the job the team are doing here. There’s one day left, and I will be opening the stage. My goal is to take the win, it won’t be easy, but I’ll certainly do my best.”
Skyler Howes: “Today started out quite interesting – we had fog at the start of the stage and as it was blowing in the direction of the special, it took a really long time to clear. It was getting hotter as it got later too. It was a long stage and with the fog making the sand damp, for those of us opening we were leaving the perfect tracks for everyone behind to follow. They could even see where we were on the gas or braking hard. The dunes were really technical, but with the sun a lot higher it was difficult to see properly and read the terrain. Definitely not the day to be opening and we lost quite a bit of time, but I think we did a good job from the front. That’s racing, so we’ll regroup now and push hard once again tomorrow on the final stage.”
2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Stage 4 Provisional Classification
1. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:47:08
2. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 3:50:30
3. Ross Branch (Hero) 3:51:14
4. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 3:51:25
5. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:52:41
6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 3:53:44
2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 4]
1. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 14:45:32
2. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 14:48:30
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 14:51:46
4. Ross Branch (Hero) 14:52:10
5. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 14:52:48
6. Toby Price (KTM) 14:54:07