Ross Branch tops Stage 1 for Hero at Dakar Rally

The Hero squad also displayed remarkable camaraderie and commitment.

January 08, 2024 03:09 am | Updated 03:09 am IST - Al Henakiyah

Hero Motosports’ Ross Branch in action during the prologue stage, Alula, Saudi Arabia - January 5, 2024.

Hero Motosports’ Ross Branch in action during the prologue stage, Alula, Saudi Arabia - January 5, 2024. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Hero MotoSports Team Rally made a strong start to the Dakar Rally as its rider Ross Branch topped the opening stage of the iconic off-roading event.

In total, three Hero riders crossed Saturday’s finish line successfully, with Branch finishing first among 136 competitors in the bike category.

After a spectacular performance in Stage 1, Branch leads the field with a healthy 12-minute advantage.

The Hero squad also displayed remarkable camaraderie and commitment. Joaquim Rodrigues crashed and fell head over on the ground losing consciousness.

Joan Barreda and Sebastian Buhler, competing in the Rally GP class, reached the accident spot shortly, stopped to take care of their teammate and waited until he was evacuated by helicopter to the hospital.

Branch too found fellow competitor Toscha Schareina crashing, and decided to remain by his side until medical assistance arrived.

Exhausted to the core, Barreda and Buhler also crossed the finish line of the extreme challenge in the top-15.

In the overall Rally GP class rankings, Barreda and Buhler find themselves on the 13th and 15th positions. Hero’s fourth pilot Joaquim Rodrigues, however, encountered an unfortunate crash during the Stage and had to exit from the rally.

After a steady start in the Prologue stage, the competitors set out on their first full Stage at the 46th Dakar edition as early as 6am on Sunday– a 532 km eastward journey from AlUla to Al Henakiyah.

The Stage was particularly demanding and saw several top riders crash and exit from the race.

Rocks and canyons set the preface for the stage, as in the prologue stage, followed by a maze of alternating wadis, off-piste, and lots of changes in direction.

While the rough winding tracks and volcanic lava settlements made way for amazing sceneries, the competitors had to risk everything until the last kilometer to finish.

The competitors will now make their journey further east to Al Duwadimi, covering a massive 662 kms in Stage 2 - of which 470 kms are timed. The route will feature fast stretches and will favour the brave.

Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, said: “Today is a day of mixed emotions for us. The light and shadow are very close in this year’s Dakar – an unfortunate exit for JRod, and Ross wins his third Stage for Hero – all in the same day! "The victory is also by a great margin, and we are extremely proud to put Hero on the overall lead at the Dakar Rally for the first time in our history. I look forward to a great race ahead."

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