Reigning Dakar champion Benavides leaves Honda to join KTM
Newly-crowned Dakar Rally champion Kevin Benavides has left Honda to join KTM Factory Racing with immediate effect.
Benavides led Honda’s first 1-2 in the prestigious rally raid since 1987 earlier this January, beating last year’s champion Ricky Brabec and a fleet of KTMs.
The result made him only the second Argentine to win the Dakar after Marcos Patronelli in 2010 (quads), and first in the ultra-competitive motorcycles class.
The 32-year-old has been associated with Honda since 2015 when he received the support from its South American arm to compete in the Morocco Rally, finishing an impressive fourth on is debut.
A few months later he made his Dakar bow with the Japanese manufacturer, finishing fourth at his first attempt before improving to second the following year.
But after playing an integral role in Honda's back-to-back successes in Dakar from 2020-21, Benavides will move to the rival KTM marque for the remainder of the season and beyond.
The Argentine will contest the FIM Cross-Countries Rally World Championship with the Austrian manufacturer before taking part in the Dakar next January in Saudi Arabia.
His first competitive outing on KTM machinery is expected to be at the Rally Kazakhstan in early June.
“I feel so excited to join the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team, it’s a big, big change for me,” said Benavides.
“As Dakar champion the move is an important new chapter in my racing career. I have always been a fan of KTM bikes, of Red Bull, and of how the team is organized – I truly believe that it’s the best choice for me to further my racing and to be able to challenge for more Dakar wins and the World Championship title.
“The plan, after my first visit to the factory in Austria, is to head out to Dubai and get some time on the bike, and with the team.
“The goal for this year is to try and adapt to the bike as quickly as possible and get to know all the people in the new team so that I feel comfortable and can concentrate on my riding.
“Looking ahead to next year, the ultimate goal would be to win back-to-back Dakars. I have already been lucky enough to be a factory supported rider in enduro years ago, so to now be back on a KTM and in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rally team is a dream and a real honor. I’m really thankful for the opportunity and can’t wait to get racing!”
KTM scored a record 18 victories in the Dakar Rally at the turn of the century before its run of successive wins was halted by Brabec in 2020 when the cross-country rally moved to Saudi Arabia.
“This is an exciting time for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and we are pleased to be welcoming Kevin to the team,” said KTM team manager Jordi Viladoms.
“His results speak for themselves and I am sure his wealth of knowledge, experience, as well as his competitive motivation, will bring a lot to our team. This, combined with our vast experience, ensures a strong collaboration, which we believe will be of great benefit to all of us.
“Our rally program is enjoying some changes as we focus on the future as well as our goals of winning the World Championship, and bringing the Dakar title back to Austria. We look forward to beginning our testing program with Kevin, ready for the first round of the World Championship in the next few months.”
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