LUCIANO BENAVIDES PIPS TOBY PRICE FOR 2023 W2RC TITLE
After Husqvarna’s Luciano Benavides won three of the 2023 Dakar Rally’s 14 stages back in January (the most of any rider and the first of his career!), you got the sense that the likeable Argentinean had finally emerged from the shadow of his KTM-mounted brother, Kevin, who was crowned Dakar champion in both 2021 and 2023. And sure enough, after a calculated second-place finish (to Australia’s Toby Price) in Morocco’s Rallye du Maroc, Luciano Benavides has hung on by just 4 points over the rampaging Price to clinch the 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC). Here’s the PR from Benavides’ Husqvarna team, which reflects on the gruelling five-round 2023 W2RC series…
Opening the fifth and final stage of the 2023 Rallye du Maroc, Luciano Benavides delivered another impressive performance, completing the short, 157km timed special as second fastest. The stage result confirmed Luciano as runner-up for the event and in turn, the 28-year-old secured the world championship crown.
2023 has been an exceptional year for Benavides. Taking three stage wins at the Dakar Rally, Luciano went on to equal his career-best result of sixth. Runner-up at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in early March, he then went on to secure further podium finishes at the Sonora Rally in Mexico and his home race, the Desafio Ruta 40. In total, Luciano has claimed an impressive 10 stage wins over the course of the five-round season.
Coming into the fifth and final round of the 2023 series, Benavides enjoyed a nine-point advantage at the top of the standings over rival, Toby Price. If Price was to win in Morocco, a third-place finish or higher would be enough for Luciano to secure the championship. The battle went down to the very last day, but Luciano held his nerve to deliver a true champion’s performance while opening the final stage, securing second Overall in the race and claiming the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship title.
Luciano Benavides: “It’s a dream come true for me! It’s been a long journey to get to this point from finishing my first rally here in Morocco in 2017. To finish like this against Toby on the last day of the rally while opening the stage is incredible. I can’t thank the team enough for all the hard work and their belief in me. Today was crazy! The navigation for this stage was tricky. I did get lost at some points, but I managed to get back on track quickly and make up time. I loved opening the stage on the dunes and I knew that I had to get ahead as the others would be catching me up. Finally, I’ve got my first World Championship! Waiting for confirmation of the championship when I finished was tense – 40 minutes felt like four hours, but I knew I gave my best today as there was no other option. It was really special to start first because I could just look forward and get on with it, and no one caught me, so I finished first too. I want to celebrate and enjoy this feeling for a while because although it is amazing, it’s been a tough season and I have trained hard, so I want to rest for a week or two. After that, it’s full gas again because I want to keep the same rhythm and pace for Dakar as it’s another dream for me to win.”
Andreas Hölzl – Rally Team Manager: “We’re super, super happy for Luciano to be crowned world champion. It’s great for a new-generation rider to deliver such a consistent and successful season and to be rewarded with his first world title. The battle here in Morocco truly went down to the wire, but he was able to maintain his speed and didn’t falter under pressure. The whole team have done an incredible job all season and I think we have a really good set-up as we now look ahead to the Dakar.”
Luciano and the Husqvarna Factory Racing team will next switch their focus to the upcoming Dakar Rally, held in Saudi Arabia from January 5-19, 2024.
2023 RALLYE DU MAROC – OVERALL CLASSIFICATION
1. Toby Price (KTM) – 15:56:43
2. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) – 15:59:43
3. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) – 15:59:55
4. Ross Branch (Hero) – 16:01:27
5. Tosha Schareina (Honda) – 16:05:23
6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) – 16:09:42
2023 FIM W2RC – FINAL STANDINGS
1. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) – 100 points
2. Toby Price (KTM) – 96 points
3. Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) – 76 points
4. Ross Branch (Hero) 58 points
5. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) – 55 points
6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) – 52 points