Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing riders successfully complete Dakar marathon stage

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla and Luciano Benavides have safely arrived at the bivouac in Neom where they have re-united with their team following the 2021 Dakar Rally marathon stage. With both riders claiming top-20 stage results, despite the challenging journey through the desert, the two FR 450 Rally mounted stars sit 10th and 11th respectively in the provisional overall standings.

With no outside mechanical assistance allowed overnight at the temporary bivouac, preserving tyres and machine was the priority for both riders. Not feeling as comfortable as he’d like over the harsh terrain on stage eight, Pablo Quintanilla opted to complete the 375km special at a solid but steady pace and ensure a safe finish. Finishing the day as 18th fastest, 18 minutes down on the eventual stage winner, Pablo now provisionally sits 10th overall, just ahead of his teammate.

Stage eight turned out to be one to forget for Luciano Benavides. Struggling to find his rhythm early on, the Argentinian then came across a fallen rider who required medical attention. Staying with him until help arrived, Luciano then carried on to the end of the stage, posting the 20th quickest time. Despite the disappointing result, Benavides lies 11th in the provisional standings, one place behind his teammate, and may see his result improve if he is awarded time back for the period spent helping his fellow competitor.

Pablo Quintanilla: “It’s been a tough marathon stage, both days have been challenging with some very tricky technical sections and for the body it has been very tiring. I didn’t really feel comfortable enough to push today and with four more long days to go, I didn’t want to make any serious mistakes on the rocky tracks. Luckily, we didn’t have any issues during the marathon stage, and I was able to look after the bike really well. I’ll talk to the team now and we’ll come up with a plan for the rest of the race and hopefully we can make up a few more places.”

Luciano Benavides: “That has certainly been the worst day of my rally so far. For me, I didn’t feel so good at the start of the stage, so it was difficult to focus properly through the stage. I struggled a little with my rhythm at first and then after the refuelling I found another rider who had crashed. I stayed with him until the medical helicopter arrived but after that it was hard to get into the right frame of mind again, so I just tried to get myself safely to the finish and not push too hard. The stage was amazing with some really beautiful scenery, it’s just a shame I wasn’t able to enjoy it.”

Stage nine of the rally forms a loop north of the bivouac at Neom and covers a total of 579km. The timed special at 465km long is the second longest of the race and will require accurate navigation.

Download high-res images from the 2021 Dakar Rally here.

2021 Dakar Rally – Stage 8 Provisional Classification

1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 3:08:40
2. Toby Price (KTM) 3:09:45
3. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 3:11:30
4. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 3:12:26
5. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 3:14:09
6. Joan Barreda (Honda) 3:14:27

18. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 3:27:20
20. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:30:28

2021 Dakar Rally – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 8)

1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 32:00:11
2. Toby Price (KTM) 32:01:17 + 0:01:06
3. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 32:06:08 + 0:05:57
4. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 32:13:09 + 0:12:58
5. Joan Barreda (Honda) 32:16:16 + 0:16:05
6. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 32:17:53 + 0:17:42

10. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 32:38:52
11. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 32:39:06