Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides and Skyler Howes are all set to compete at Rally Kazakhstan, round one of the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. For Benavides, the race marks the first competitive outing since his injury at the Dakar in January, while for Howes, it will be his first FIM event since signing for the team earlier this year.
Showing impressive speed and consistency at the Dakar Rally in January, Luciano Benavides’ event was frustratingly cut short after he suffered a fall on stage nine. Returning home to Argentina, Benavides soon underwent surgery to repair the damage caused to his shoulder. Luciano successfully completed an intense period of training in Spain recently, where he and the team worked on settings for the FR 450 Rally as well as his road book skills and navigation. Now, having had time to return to full fitness and rebuild his confidence, the 25-year-old is ready to start his 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies campaign with Rally Kazakhstan.
Signing for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing towards the end of April, top Dakar privateer Skyler Howes immediately impressed at his first two outings for the team by securing a runner-up result in both the Silver State 330 desert race and the Sonora Rally. Also travelling to Spain to carry out important testing with the team, Howes has enjoyed getting up to speed on his new bike. Now, as the first round of the world championship grows nearer, Skyler is keen to make a strong impression while also conscious of the task ahead of him – continuing to build his speed and skills ahead of his Dakar debut for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team next January.
Running from June 9 to June 13, Rally Kazakhstan marks the first round of the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. Hosting motorcycles for the first time, the five-stage event will cover a total distance of 2,270 kilometres. Including one marathon stage, riders will race over 1,465 kilometres against the clock through the desert and rocky tracks to the east of the host city of Aktau. Impressive scenery will greet competitors on each of the five days of racing, but with a large amount of the race held in the tricky-to-navigate dunes of the Mangystau region, accurate navigation will be key throughout the event. With temperatures in the desert also topping 30°C during the day, endurance will also play a major part in securing a strong result.
Luciano Benavides: “Thankfully I’m feeling really good right now. It’s been three months since I had surgery on my shoulder after Dakar, and so I feel like new again. A lot of the time since then I have been training hard to get back to 100 percent, and more recently I have been in Spain with the team, back on the rally bike and working on my navigation. I really want to come back to competition even more prepared than ever. For me, when I have a crash or an injury it often motivates me to come back even stronger and that is what I have been working on. The changes we have made to the bike seem to be good – I felt more comfortable straight away and that is important for my confidence going into round one of the world championship. My plan for the race is to get a strong finish, I will take it day by day and try not to make any mistakes. I’m really looking forward to starting racing again now!”
Skyler Howes: “Everything has been going really well since joining the team. It’s been a nice, smooth transition from privateer to factory rider and thankfully because of that I’ve had time to not only work on setting up the bike, but also on myself in terms of focus and fitness. I have done a couple of races already in the U.S. and they both went well with me finishing as runner-up twice. Since then, I have come to Spain to do more road book training and get better acquainted with the team. I’m really looking forward to racing my first FIM event for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, but the major goal is to get more time on the bike and try and build my confidence as the year goes on and we get close to Dakar 2022.”
Pela Renet – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team Manager: “We are very happy to be finally starting the championship, even if it is a little later in the year than normal. After the lack of racing in 2020 it feels good to be able to look forward to a solid calendar. I’m excited to be heading to Kazakhstan, it will be the first time for the bikes so it’s new for everyone and it’s always nice to take on a fresh challenge. I think Skyler will do well, he has already had some competition experience this year in the U.S. including one rally, so he should be comfortable straight away. For Luciano it will be important for him to build his confidence after his Dakar crash and take things step-by-step. Overall, it feels great to be going racing again and we’re looking forward to seeing what Rally Kazakhstan delivers.”