Enjoying a positive start to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, round two of the FIM Rally-Raid World Championship, Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides and Skyler Howes have safely completed stage one just outside the top-10 overall with Luciano placing 11th and Skyler close behind in 14th.
As the seventh rider to enter the opening stage of the rally, Luciano Benavides was able to capitalise on the lines the leading riders left in the rolling sand dunes to quickly close the gap on his rivals. Shortly after refuelling, the Argentine moved to the head of the field, navigated with precision, and went on to complete the 262-kilometre timed special with the 11th fastest time. With four days of racing remaining, the 25-year-old will benefit from a favourable starting position tomorrow as he looks to begin fighting his way up the overall classification.
Returning to action after his unfortunate crash during the Dakar Rally in January, Skyler Howes enjoyed the opening stage at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. With Luciano catching up with him at the midway point of the special, the American was then able to ride alongside his teammate and focus on maintaining a strong pace to the end of the stage. Skyler would ultimately complete the special as the 14th fastest rider.
The second stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge takes place tomorrow and is set to be the longest of the event at 316 kilometres. Incorporating leg one of the rally’s marathon stage, once completed Skyler and Luciano will arrive at a temporary bivouac where they’ll prepare their FR 450 Rally machines without the support of the team before entering stage three.
Luciano Benavides: “It’s been a good first day here in Abu Dhabi. It was a nice stage, quite fast and flowing, and quite a physical test also. From starting seventh I moved forwards and after refuelling I opened the stage. I was able to navigate really well from there and it was good for my confidence, knowing that I can ride with a good pace while navigating accurately. A great opening stage for me and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Skyler Howes: “I really enjoyed today. It’s my first time racing here so everything is new for me but so far it’s been a great experience. Luciano caught up with me at the refuelling and then I was able to latch onto him for a while which was cool, having two Husqvarnas up front and opening the stage. He did a great job of opening and that made things a little easier for me. It’s great to be back on the bike and racing, and I felt better as the stage went on so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what else this desert has to offer.”
2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Stage 1 Provisional Classification
1. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 3:18:32
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:20:34
3. Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:20:43
4. Michael Docherty (Husqvarna) 3:20:46
5. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:21:09
6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 3:21:16
11. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:29:45
14. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:35:47
2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 1]
1. Michael Docherty (Husqvarna) 3:41:02
2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:41:25
3. Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:41:39
4. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 3:42:00
5. Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 3:43:08
6. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:43:54
11. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:50:49
14. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:57:07