Monday, March 4, 2024

Luciano Benavides: “I’ve been getting stronger and stronger in every race”

For winning the 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship in the RallyGP category, Luciano Benavides was among fifty-eight FIM champions honoured at the FIM Awards held at Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool on Saturday.

After finishing fourth in the 2022 championship, Benavides broke out in 2023 starting with three stage wins at the Dakar Rally, which his older brother Kevin won whereas he finished sixth. While Kevin’s title campaign was cut short by injuries, Luciano became the paragon of consistency as he never finished lower than second among W2RC-eligible across the remaining four rounds.

He placed runner-up to Adrien Van Beveren at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, followed by another second to Daniel Sanders at the Sonora Rally. Benavides technically lost to Tosha Schareina at his home rally in the Desafío Ruta 40, but Schareina not racing for the championship gave Benavides maximum points in the standings and the points lead over Toby Price. Although Price, who was plagued by mechanical issues in Argentina, rebounded by winning the season-ending Rallye du Maroc, Benavides finished behidn him to clinch the title by four points.

“It has been a great season,” said Benavides at the FIM Awards. “I’ve been getting stronger and stronger in every race, getting a podium in every round except the Dakar. I’m very happy to receive this award. It’s something very special because I’m the only Argentinian this year, and the first one to be here for rally raid, so it’s really nice. It’s an honour and I must said thanks to ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), the FIM and everyone involved in the championship. I’m now looking forward to 2024, my motivation is super high because I want to carry this moment to the Dakar and try to get that podium. That would be my second dream.”

Benavides was among seven riders honoured as “Ultimate Champions” as the titlists in the top series overseen by the FIM. Others in this category included Francesco Bagnaia (MotoGP), Alvaro Bautista (Superbike), Toni Bou (TrialGP), Steve Holcombe (EnduroGP), Jorge Prado (Motocross), and Bartosz Zmarzlik (Speedway Grand Prix).

His FIA counterpart Nasser Al-Attiyah will be celebrated at this weekend’s FIA Prize Giving Ceremony in Baku.

“Luciano Benavides is a great winner,” offered David Castera, who oversees the ASO that runs the Dakar Rally. “He has been there during all the events, always in a good position, he knew how to stay calm and push when necessary. I think he won the 2023 championship thanks to his ‘quiet strength.’

“This second W2RC season is a success. Riders and teams are very involved, we are happy with our results and will continue to build for the future. A great programme awaits us in 2024, with very different events which all have their own specificities. It’s a nice calendar.”

Benavides will remain with Husqvarna Factory Racing for the 2024 season, and will also switch to #1 as the reigning champion though his usual #77 is included in the top right corner of his number bib. The five-race 2024 W2RC begins with the Dakar Rally on 5 January.

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