Lying 10th and 11th respectively in the overall rally standings and having successfully completed six days of racing at the 2021 Dakar, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla and Luciano Benavides are currently enjoying a well-deserved rest day at the Ha’il bivouac before resuming racing on Sunday’s stage seven.
So far at the event, both FR 450 Rally riders have delivered solid performances and top-three stage results to secure their strong positions in the overall standings, positioned well within sight of the leaders. Due to both the high pace and quality of riding at this year’s race the top 12 riders are separated by a mere 20 minutes.
Pablo Quintanilla has shown great consistency over the first six stages of the rally. Although suffering from a number of small navigation errors, the Chilean rider is still well within the hunt for podium places. Currently 10th overall, just 15 minutes down on the rally leader, Pablo is looking forward to the second half of the race and improving his position.
Just one minute behind Quintanilla, Luciano Benavides sits 11th in the standings but is confident of improving on his position as riders face the tough second week. The young Argentinian, contesting his fourth Dakar Rally, enjoys a strong start position for Sunday’s 737km day seven – the first half of the event’s marathon stage – and is confident his strength and stamina will prove useful over the all-important final days of the race.
Despite the opening week challenging all competitors with some of the most difficult to navigate stages seen at the Dakar, the second week of racing could arguably be even tougher. Sunday will mark the first half of the event’s marathon stage, where riders will be unable to receive any outside assistance and must maintain their bike themselves. Machine preservation will be imperative so as to not lose any time over the two days. Stage nine’s long, looped stage around the town of Neom is billed as being one of the most demanding of the rally due to the variety of terrain that will be encountered. While on Thursday, riders will then face the longest timed special of the event – a 511km route for the penultimate stage 11.
Pela Renet – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team Manager: “After one week here at the Dakar things are looking really good for the team. Everything is really close in the overall classification even though we have seen some incredibly tough stages. We’re only halfway through but I am really happy with how the team and riders have performed over these first six days. The results are a lot different to last year – on rest day in 2020, Pablo was second, 20 minutes behind the leader, now the whole of the top 10 are only 15 minutes apart. It’s almost as if we start over for next week as the gaps are so small. We have learned a lot from this first week and hope to use some of that knowledge in the closing days ahead. I think we are in a good position, and both riders have good starts for stage seven and that could well be important as it’s the first half of the marathon stage. So, there’s a long way to go, but the team are all really motivated, and we’ll give it our all for the second week.”
2021 Dakar Rally – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 6)
1. Toby Price (KTM) 24:08:43
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 24:10:59 + 0:02:16
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 24:11:40 + 0:02:57
4. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 24:12:24 + 0:03:41
5. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 24:12:24 + 0:03:41
6. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 24:13:06 + 0:04:23
10. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 24:23:56
11. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 24:25:44