Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla and Luciano Benavides have successfully reached the finish of stage five of the 2021 Dakar Rally, claiming 10th and 13th place results respectively. On what riders are describing as the toughest day of racing so far this year, the two FR 450 Rally mounted stars made errors early on but were both able to recoup some of their losses by increasing their pace in the latter stages of the 456km special.
With the first section of the timed special, before the checkpoint at kilometre 43, proving to be the most challenging, many competitors fell foul of the tricky-to-navigate terrain. Quintanilla was one of those who found himself going off-track through the area, but using his experience, he was able to get himself back to the official route before pushing onwards. Finding the second half of the stage with its sandy tracks and desert dunes more to his liking, Pablo immediately began catching the stage leaders. Enjoying a mistake-free final 200km the Chilean rider ultimately reached the finish as 10th fastest, to secure 11th in the provisional overall standings.
Following his third-place finish on Wednesday’s stage four, Benavides soon found himself up near the front today, opening the special. Like teammate Quintanilla, Luciano suffered from a couple of mistakes, including a small crash, and was then caught by a number of riders behind. With the group completing the stage together, it was difficult for the young Argentinian to make any of his own progress, and so he settled for a safe finish in 13th.
Pablo Quintanilla: “Well, today turned out to be a really tough stage. At the beginning, on a big plateau, I chose to take one piste about 200 metres earlier than I should have. It meant that I travelled about five kilometres in the wrong direction. When I realised, I tried to cut across to get back to where I should be but it was too stony, so I had to travel all the way back again. Obviously, I lost a lot of time there. I knew I had to push a lot from there to the end of the stage and so I really tried my best and managed to make up some time on the guys in front. In the end, it’s not so bad as we know there is still a long way to go. I’m lying just outside the top 10, but only 15 minutes or so behind the leader and that can change in just one stage.”
Luciano Benavides: “We’ve finished day five, which was easily the toughest day we’ve had all week. It wasn’t the best stage for me, I had a crash quite early on, near kilometre 20, and after that there were a couple of us riding together and we got lost a little bit, which cost even more time. From about halfway through the stage the terrain changed a little as we hit the dunes. By then there was a group of us riding together to the finish, so it was difficult to make up time on any of them. It was a long, tiring day, but at the end my result was not so bad.”
On completing stage six of the 2021 Dakar Rally tomorrow, riders will have reached the halfway point of the event. First however, they must face another tough day in the dunes, with the 618km stage including a long 448km timed special.
2021 Dakar Rally – Stage 5 Provisional Classification
1. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 5:09:50
2. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 5:10:50
3. Toby Price (KTM) 5:11:10
4. Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco) 5:12:19
5. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 5:14:07
6. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 5:17:45
10. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 5:22:05
13. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 5:24:13
2021 Dakar Rally – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 5)
1. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 20:15:39
2. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 20:18:10
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 20:19:21
4. Toby Price (KTM) 20:19:22
5. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 20:21:45
6. Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco) 20:25:10
10. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 20:30:09
11. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 20:32:01