Making a solid start to the 2021 Dakar Rally, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides and Pablo Quintanilla have both successfully completed the technically demanding opening stage, finishing in ninth and 21st respectively.
Following over three hours of racing across the rock-strewn tracks between Jeddah to Bisha in the west of the country, Benavides marked his debut Dakar stage for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team by finishing inside the top 10. Feeling comfortable on his FR 450 Rally right from the off, the young Argentinian was able to stick to a fast, consistent pace, despite the technical terrain and tricky navigation causing issues for many riders. In finishing ninth on the stage, Luciano sits ninth in the provisional overall standings and will enjoy an advantageous start position for Monday’s stage two.
Posting the eighth fastest time on Saturday’s short 11km Prologue, Pablo Quintanilla was awarded a strong start position going into the 277km timed special on day one. The Chilean was immediately able to chase down his rivals ahead and by kilometre 71 had moved up to sixth. A couple of small mistakes in the challenging rocky pistes cost Pablo some minutes, but the experienced racer was able to regroup and hold a solid pace to the finish. Ultimately completing the stage in a provisional 20th position to hold 21st overall, Quintanilla is well placed to make up lost time during the long 457km special of stage two.
Monday’s stage two of the 2021 Dakar Rally totals 685km and includes a timed special of 457km. The route will take riders from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir and deliver a mixture of conditions, including sand dunes for the first time this year.
Luciano Benavides:“It’s been a good day for me today, my plan was to start quite steady and build my confidence on the bike, but as the stage went on, I was feeling good and able to push a little more. I really focused on my navigation and at the refuelling I found out my times were good and that was really encouraging. On the second half of the special I made a little mistake and a group of riders I had passed earlier got past me again, so I had to ride through there dust for a while. Other than a very small, low-speed crash later on, the rest of the stage went well. The bike feels great in these conditions and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Pablo Quintanilla:“Well the first stage of the rally has not been the best for me. I struggled to find a good rhythm early on and with the special being made up of some very technical, rocky terrain, I wasn’t able to find the pace that I wanted. It’s only day one though and there is a long way to go, I plan on making the most of my start position tomorrow and hopefully make up some time on the leaders.”
2021 Dakar Rally – Stage 1 Provisional Classification
1. Toby Price (KTM) 3:18:26
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 3:18:57
3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:18:58
4. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 3:20:29
5. Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco) 3:22:49
6. Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 3:23:01
9. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:26:03
20. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 3:33:56
2021 Dakar Rally – Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 1)
1. Toby Price (KTM) 3:43:58
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 3:44:21
3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:45:10
4. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 3:48:09
5. Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco) 3:48:57
6. Franco Caimi (Yamaha) 3:49:14
9. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:52:03
21. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 3:59:28
Source: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing press release