Demanding opening special stage for Husqvarna Factory Racing at Dakar 2022

At the end of a demanding opening day of competition at the 2022 Dakar Rally it was Skyler Howes who claimed Husqvarna Factory Racing’s best result, the American completed the 546-kilometre stage as the 10th fastest rider despite a navigational issue hampering his performance. Teammate Luciano Benavides was less fortunate, ending the day in 38th position having been among the first riders to arrive at a troublesome section of the special stage, going on to lose valuable time trying to find the correct route through the stage.

Opting to ride cautiously during yesterday’s opening prologue so as to avoid being among the first riders into today’s special stage, Skyler was the 22nd rider to begin the first true special stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally. Steadily working his way forward while settling himself into the stage, the American improved to place just outside the top 10 as he arrived at the day’s most challenging navigational section. Thankfully, trusting his instincts, he lost little time and was able to ride on for an eventual 10th place result, earning a beneficial starting position for tomorrow’s second stage.

Unfortunately for Skyler’s teammate Luciano Benavides, the Argentinian saw what began as a positive day’s work come undone mid-way between the refuelling stop and the end of the special stage. One of the first rider to enter the stage, and a lead rider for much of the day, Luciano struggled to find the day’s decisive and all-important waypoint. Dropping more than one hour to the fastest rider by the time he reached the end of the special, Luciano eventually placed 38th.

Skyler Howes: “Today’s stage was actually quite fun to ride. It was the first stage of this year’s Dakar so I wasn’t pushing too hard. There were a lot of tracks and a lot of camel grass, so it was easy to get caught out. I just used the stage to feel my way into things early on, but then made a pretty big navigational error and just got things really wrong, like a lot of riders did. Thankfully, I went with my gut instincts and rode over a hill, then another hill, met up with some other riders that were looking for the waypoint and from there managed to find the waypoint before riding together to the finish. Apart from that the day was fun and my bike was great, so onto tomorrow.”

Luciano Benavides: “You always hope that when you are one of the first riders to start a special stage that there won’t be any big difficulties, but today there were. I ended up in all the drama with the one note that a lot of riders struggled with. After doing a good job opening the stage, at one point I was one of 10 or 12 riders all lost, which is really frustrating. Not the way I wanted the rally to start, but we will race hard during the remaining 11 stages.”

2022 Dakar Rally – Stage 1 Provisional Classification

1. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 4:38:40
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 4:41:47
3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 4:49:46
4. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 4:51:26
5. Mason Klein (KTM) 4:53:14

10. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 5:03:52
38. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 5:42:11