- It is the India-based team’s best-ever finish
- Hero made top 10 finish inspite of a Branch’s fuel injection issues
Botswana’s most celebrated motorsport sensation Ross Branch has led his new team, Hero Motorsport, to the best-ever Dakar Rally historical finish at the recent 45th edition held in Saudi Arabia.
Branch returned to Saudi as a new member of the Indian-based team alongside three other teammates, Franco Caimi, Joaquim Rodrigues and Sebastian Buhler who all contributed massively to the success of the team this year.
The Hero Motorsport entourage finished in the top 10 overall, a stage podium and recorded two stage wins through the Botswana native Branch in stage eight and 10 of the competition. Buhler finished the last stage (14) in 6th place while Caimi and Branch finished in 13th and 14th places in individual races respectively.
The 2023 Dakar Rally was Branch’s first Dakar with Hero Motorsport, which was appearing for the seventh time in competition, after he suffered a crash in stage four of the rally where he wasted hours with an empty fuel tank due to fuel injection issues on his bike.
The fuel issue minimised his chances for good results in the overall standings. Nonetheless, he pushed hard and won two stages in three days as he closed up the gap he lost in stage four.
In a post-race interview with Gazette Sports, Branch said had the mishap not occurred in stage four, he would have been a contender for the top prize with his four top five and three top 1o performances.
Not the desired results
“It is sad that I finished 16th overall, which was not the desired results, but I had to accept how things turned out,” he said. “The good thing is that I know the reason I finished 16th and I have learnt from that mistake. I am not going to give up because I grasp something in every edition, which usually helps me to always come back stronger.
“However, I am happy with the team’s overall top 10 finish. We all worked hard as a team and we intend to do good in future races. I return home a happy man because I managed two stage wins for the first time since I debuted in the Dakar Rally years ago.
I am also grateful for the support and love I got from motorsport fans across the world. They motivated me to give my best.”
“The Kalahari Ferrari”
Popularly known as “The Kalahari Ferrari,” Branch rode for the KTM Off-Road Racing Team in 2018/19 where he won the Best Rookie award in his Dakar Rally debut. He went on to represent Monster Energy Yamaha Racing and became the first stage winner from Botswana after taking the stage 2 victory at the Dakar Rally 2020.
He told Gazette Sports that he intends to compete more often in international events in order to advance his skills and maintain his momentum.
“It is very important to continue competing against my rivals in other events so I can measure my progress heading into the next Dakar Rally,” he said. “I will be setting my eye on the top prize next year and am confident that I will do well.”