Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Skyler Howes has put in another strong ride at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to secure his second consecutive third-place finish at the tough FIM World Rally-Raid Championship event. Battling through the rougher, more physically demanding terrain of stage three, Howes completed today’s special just 19 seconds down on the winner. Opening much of the stage, Luciano Benavides did an exceptional job with his navigation to finish in eighth place, less than four minutes down on Howes.
It was a tough day in the desert today for all riders, with a 266-kilometre timed special delivering a more motocross-like experience due to the harder-going ground and tracks of the looped stage. Thankfully temperatures were lower due to consistent cloud cover, but with the day marking the second half of the event’s marathon stage, competitors were tested to their limits both mentally and physically.
Despite the gruelling conditions, Skyler Howes delivered another consistent ride to complete the stage in third. The American, who set off third into the special, held his own while racing up near the front of the pack, and after collecting just over two minutes in bonuses, secured a top-three result for the second stage in a row, narrowly missing out on the stage win by just 19 seconds. The result moves Skyler from eighth to fifth in the provisional overall standings.
Following on from his day two win, Luciano was first into today’s stage and led out much of the special. After being caught by Jose Ignacio Cornejo at around kilometre eighty, the two rivals raced head-to-head at the lead of the group, fighting to claim the all-important time bonuses for opening the stage. As such, the pace at the front was high, with Benavides ultimately finishing in eighth place and losing under four minutes to the eventual stage winner. The Argentinian currently lies in seventh overall but will enjoy a strong start position for Thursday’s stage four – the penultimate day of the race.
Skyler Howes: “That was a really tough stage today, I’m definitely feeling the fatigue to my whole body. It was also overcast with a lot of cloud cover and that makes visibility in the dunes really bad, so it’s difficult to see any dune cuts, or much of anything for that matter. I caught up with the guys in front just before the refuelling, but it was definitely Luciano and Nacho (Cornejo) that took the reins opening the stage and did a really good job keeping the pace high. I’m actually quite happy with the day, but man it was physically demanding for sure. I’m looking forward to getting a bit of rest now ahead of the final two days.”
Luciano Benavides: “For me, the weather was a lot better today as it was cloudy, and the temperature was a lot lower. It was a really tough day in the desert, with the stage today being more motocross style with less larger dunes. I opened half of the stage, more or less, with me and Nacho (Cornejo) swapping positions at the front. As the time bonuses are bigger for whoever is leading at each waypoint, we really were racing hard to each of them, which was good for the overall pace. So yeah, it was full gas all day, I think I did a good job opening, and now I have a good start position for tomorrow, so I’ll try and make up some time.”
2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Stage 3 Provisional Classification
1. Toby Price (KTM) 3:43:29
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:43:45
3. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:43:48
4. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 3:44:04
5. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 3:44:32
6. Ross Branch (Hero) 3:46:32
8. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:47:25
2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 3]
1. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 10:55:02
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 10:55:45
3. Toby Price (KTM) 10:57:58
4. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 10:58:02
5. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 11:00:07
6. Ross Branch (Hero) 11:00:56
7. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 11:01:22