Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides has successfully completed stage three of the 2021 Rally Kazakhstan in sixth place, to lie sixth overall in the provisional rally standings. Opening the day’s special, Skyler Howes frustratingly suffered an issue with his rear mousse, which caused him to slow and then retire from the stage.
As the second half of the marathon stage, day three in Kazakhstan proved to be a huge challenge for both the riders and their machines. With over 600km raced over the course of the two days, machine preservation would prove key to a safe return to the bivouac at Aktau.
Continuing to build his confidence and find his speed on the tough tracks of the rally, Luciano Benavides impressed once again with a sixth-place result that sees him move two places higher in the overall standings to sixth. Riding a calculated special, the Argentinian was able to manage his pace to complete the stage just less than seven minutes down on the winner after over three and a half hours of racing.
Following his win on stage two, Skyler Howes had the unenviable task of opening today’s special. Pushing hard as he has done all rally, the American looked in great shape at the halfway point. Unfortunately, an issue with his rear mousse, likely caused by damage to his rear tyre, forced Howes to first slow, and then stop and try to repair the damage. Despite continuing as best he could, the damage would eventually prove too much, leaving Skyler with no other choice but to withdraw from the stage.
Returning to the bivouac, having been awarded a seven-hour penalty, the 29-year-old will continue with his event over the final two days of racing to gain experience and race time on his FR 450 Rally. Pleased with how his race has gone so far, Howes’ performance at the event has been highly impressive, fighting for the overall rally lead as well as taking his first FIM Cross-Country Rallies stage win.
Luciano Benavides: “Today’s stage went well for me today. I was able to ride quite consistently and although I made a couple of small mistakes with the navigation, I didn’t lose too much time. It was a really fast stage again and so I tried to pull higher gears to conserve the tyre a little. The area of dunes near the finish were very tough to race through as it was so hot, but I’m happy to arrive at the finish safely after two hard stages. It feels good to build my confidence each day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Skyler Howes: “It’s been a frustrating day today, especially as the rally was going so well for me up to this point. Everything looked good at the start of the stage after yesterday and I was riding really well and making good time. Around kilometre 200 I blew out a couple of corners and was wondering why I had no rear traction. I looked down to see the tyre was damaged and so I knew I would have to slow my pace a little. I tried my best to fix it and keep the tyre on the rim, but eventually it shredded and came off the rim. I got to within about 20km of the finish just riding on the rim, but after travelling so far, I had to stop. It’s racing and although thankfully rare, these things can happen. I’ll regroup now and get the bike fixed up and continue riding tomorrow to keep working and get more saddle time.”
Pela Renet – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team Manager: “Although it’s a massive disappointment for Skyler not to finish today’s stage, we can definitely take some huge positives from the rally so far. Including his stage win yesterday, Skyler has shown he has the pace to both challenge and beat the world championship regulars, and this is highly encouraging for both him and the team in what is only his first FIM appearance with us. We need to look into what caused the issue as these kind of failures are very rare, but with an extremely fast stage yesterday and a mixture of rocky, technical sections today, it could be that a rock has damaged the tyre and in turn caused the mousse to fail. Skyler will continue with the race, although carrying a large penalty, but of course getting as much time on the bike and increasing his experience is very important.”
Saturday’s stage four of the 2021 Rally Kazakhstan, the penultimate of the event, will see riders face two long liaison sections and a timed special of 308.8km. As well as the familiar fast, rocky pistes, the stage will feature 40km of dunes and undulating sand tracks where navigation will prove especially challenging.
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Stage 3 Provisional Classification
1. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 3:38:18
2. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 3:40:26
3. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 3:41:48
4. Franco Caimi (Hero) 3:42:45
5. Andrew Short (Yamaha) 3:44:47
6. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:44:56
13. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 8:00:00
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 3)
1. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 9:45:46
2. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 9:52:13
3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 9:53:08
4. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 9:54:01
5. Andrew Short (Yamaha) 10:04:25
6. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 10:17:24
13. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 21:03:21