Returning to FIM World Rally-Raid Championship action after a break of around seven months, Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides and Skyler Howes have made strong starts to their 2022 Rallye du Maroc campaigns, recording top-four times on today’s opening timed prologue.
Marking round three of the world championship, this year’s Rallye du Maroc is set to challenge riders with five full stages of mixed-terrain racing near the west coast of Morocco. Today’s short prologue results decide the start order for Sunday’s stage one, where riders will leave the host city of Agadir and head south to Tan-Tan.
With the RallyGP class starting in reverse order to their race numbers, it was Luciano Benavides – bike #77 – that took to the 8.97-kilometre prologue stage first. Making light work of the sandy tracks that made up the special, Benavides was able to maintain a fast but safe pace throughout the stage. Completing the prologue in third, Luciano will benefit from a choice of start positions for Sunday’s stage.
Also enjoying good speed on the fast, sandy prologue, Skyler Howes placed one position behind his teammate and as fourth-fastest on his FR 450 Rally. Despite a couple of small mistakes while pushing hard on the nine-kilometre timed section, the American star arrived safely at the finish, happy with his riding, and eager to make a strong start to the rally proper, tomorrow on stage one.
Totalling over 2,200 kilometres, and with over 1,500 kilometres of timed special stages, the 2022 Rallye du Maroc promises to provide a sizeable challenge to all riders on their return to world championship competition.
With the opening prologue completed, competitors will now face five days of intense rally action as they leave Agadir and head south down the Moroccan coast. Stage four of the event, the longest at 665 kilometres, will see riders leave Laayoune and head back further inland, through the mountains, to the finish at Agadir. Sunday’s stage one from Agadir to Tan-Tan totals 557 kilometres with a timed special of 316 kilometres.
Luciano Benavides: “It’s great to be back racing in the world championship. It’s been a busy summer with training, testing and then racing Atacama, but this is where it matters now – Morocco, Andalucia, and then preparing for the Dakar. Today’s prologue was really short at just under nine kilometres and there were a lot of lines in the sand from the previous classes, so I didn’t have to check my road book too much. I’m pleased with third, it means I can choose my start position for tomorrow and hopefully take advantage of that to get a really good start. I’m really happy with my first impressions of the rally – my bike is working well, I feel good, and I can’t wait to get started tomorrow on the ‘real’ race.”
Skyler Howes: “The prologue today went well. It was super fun and more like a motocross sand track through the trees than a rally stage. It wasn’t perfect, I made some small bobbles out there and a couple of small mistakes, but other than that I’m happy with how it all went. It feels great to be back racing the world championship again and I’m feeling really fired-up now – I can’t wait for tomorrow to get this show on the road!”
2022 Rallye du Maroc – Stage 1A Provisional Classification
1. Ross Branch (Hero) 1:01:28
2. Toby Price (KTM) 1:02:08
3. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 1:02:24
4. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 1:02:32
5. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 1:02:48
6. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 1:03:52