With Skyler Howes inking a deal with Husky, Pablo Quintanilla has left the Husqvarna Dakar factory squad, and at time of writing, there’s no word where he’s headed—but smart money says he’s going to ink a deal with Honda.
A native of Chile, Quintanilla was one of the South American riders who benefited from the Dakar Rally’s switch away from Africa to their home continent. Quintanilla was a hometown hero for many spectators, and a consistent podium threat after he signed up for the 2016 race. He took third overall at that Dakar Rally, and while he’s battled injury and bad luck over the past five years, he’s always pressured the front runners unless he’s been forced from the race. In 2020, he finished second overall, his best-ever finish, and the best finish the Husqvarna team has ever earned.
Quintanilla was also a standout in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship series during his half-decade on the Husqvarna factory team, winning the series title twice. He was particularly successful at the Atacama Rally in Chile, winning that race four times.
In 2021, Quintanilla finished seventh at Dakar, once again the top Husqvarna finisher.
So, where’s he headed next? With Kevin Benavides leaving Honda to join KTM, there’s already considerable speculation that Quintanilla will replace him. However, there are some problems with that theory. Honda’s reportedly looking to cut some budget, and hiring a big shot like Quintanilla might not help that plan. As well, Quintanilla is 34 years old now, and while his 2021 top-10 result shows he is still very fast, there are other faster, younger riders emerging. Maybe it would make more sense to sign someone like that? For now, though, rally fans figure it’s a given for Quintanilla to head over to Big Red.