Skyler Howes has stormed to second place on the fifth and final stage of the 2022 Rallye du Maroc to secure his first ever FIM World Rally-Raid Championship win.
The American completed five incredible days of rally racing in the Moroccan desert to ultimately finish just over seven minutes ahead of second-placed Luciano Benavides and third place Ricky Brabec.
Right from the start of this year’s Rallye du Maroc, both Skyler Howes and Luciano Benavides were able to deliver solid stage results day after day as they fought for the overall honours in Morocco. A one-two finish on day three saw the duo rise to the top of the event standings, and despite losing a little time while opening stage four, the pair reclaimed the top two positions on Thursday’s stage five with an excellent display of speed and navigation over the 290-kilometre timed special.
As the sixth rider into today’s final stage, Skyler knew he would have an excellent opportunity to chase down and catch the riders ahead and in turn make up the valuable minutes he needed to finish on the podium. Remaining focussed, despite the added pressure, Howes delivered an impressive ride on the route back to Agadir, making the absolute minimum of errors to place second on the stage, just six seconds behind the leader. The result was enough to top the final rally timesheets by seven minutes and 13 seconds and secure a memorable overall victory in Morocco.
Howes’ victory marks the 30-year-old’s first world championship race win, an impressive achievement that comes down to not only the commitment put in by himself and the team over the year developing the FR 450 Rally, but also Skyler’s focus and work ethic. Now, with his confidence high, the likeable American will shift his attention to the Sonora Rally in Mexico later this month.
“We’re at the finish of the Morocco Rally and I finished first, which is super cool!” Howes said. “The final stage was quite technical actually, it wasn’t a walk in the park. The navigation was tricky, and I did a couple of circles out there which slowed me down a little bit. I was still able to finish second on the stage, which was enough to win the overall, and I have to admit it’s the coolest thing of my whole life! Honestly, I’m over the moon. It’s a dream come true to take the win here in Morocco, and the plan is to carry this momentum on to the Dakar Rally.”
Finishing stage five in third, a mere nine seconds behind teammate Howes, Luciano Benavides cemented himself into second place in the overall results. Including Benavides’ impressive stage win on day three, the young Argentinian displayed immense skill and pace over the course of the five-day event to claim a well-deserved podium. Luciano’s confidence and pace is now at an all-time high. Benavides now looks forward to carrying his momentum through to the final round of the season, and on to the Dakar Rally, beginning late December.
“We’ve finished stage five, the last day of the rally,” Benavides said. “I really wanted to go for the stage win today but made a small mistake that ended up costing me some time. Nevertheless, I finished third on the stage, really close to the winner and second overall, which is amazing. I can’t describe this moment – I have worked so hard since last year to be in this position right now, and to have such a good feeling on the bike. It’s not only me, but the whole team have also done an incredible job on the bike and have worked so hard here in Morocco. This result is a big thank you to them. I can’t wait for Andalucia now, the next round, and of course the Dakar in January.”
2020 Dakar winner Ricky Brabec was happy with third overall.
“The rally was great, overall it was good for the team to get together, do some testing, read some road books,” Brabec said. “The team did a good job working together. Today it was a bit tricky for us, we had to open the stage and try not to loose a minute. It’s really tough in rally to do that, so it was difficult for us. In the end we’re happy that we are on the podium, we are happy that the team is working great together. We’re looking forward to go to Andalucia and try to improve our speed and navigation”.
FIM World Rally-Raid Championship action continues to the final round of the season, the Andalucia Rally in Spain, from October 18-23.
2022 Rallye du Maroc – Provisional Overall Classification (after final stage)
1 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 16:30:29
2 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 16:37:42
3 Ricky Brabec (Honda) 16:41:17
4 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 16:42:36
5 Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 16:45:20
6 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 16:50:40