Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan 9 (IANS) Hero MotoSports Team Rally scripted history once again by winning a stage at the world’s toughest rally — Dakar Rally.
Ross Branch finished Stage 8 in the fastest time, securing the second Dakar Stage win for himself, and for Hero MotoSports Team Rally.
For Hero MotoSports Team Rally, which entered rally racing only seven years ago, this is the second taste of victory, and in consecutive Dakar rallies, making it one of the flag-bearer of Indian motorsports. In 2022 it had become the first Indian manufacturer team ever win a Stage at the Dakar.
Sebastian Buhler also made it in to the top-10 of stage 8, finishing in the 6th position, just 8 minutes behind Ross. Franco Caimi continued his steady performance and finished the stage in the 16th position in the Rally GP class.
Ross’ stunning dash to the finish today has revitalized the morale of the team, ending the first leg of the Rally on a high note. Even though they started well with a podium in the Prologue, and another podium in Stage 2, the week took a tough turn with Joaquim Rodrigues crashing and exiting the race, and quite a few problems for Ross and Buhler in the later stages.
After a cancelled Stage 7, Stage 8 was an 824 km long ride from Al Duwadimi to Riyadh, of which 346 kms formed the special section. Aligning with the ad-hoc marathon stage that was designed by the race organizers, the competitors spent the previous night at the Al Duwadimi bivouac, while the service crews camped 500 km away in Riyadh. Tough and tricky, Stage 8 was fast and not without its fair share of sand, stony tracks and dunes. The team had fun on the stage, riding as fast as they could.
Franco Caimi has put in a consistent performance so far, and enjoys a 15th place in the overall standings. Sebastian Buhler and Ross Branch follow him in the 18th and 20th positions respectively, in the overall Rally GP class rankings.
Re-united with the rest of the team in Riyadh, the riders will enjoy a quick rest day and recover as best possible to fight in the remaining six days of the Rally. Stage 9 on 10th January will be a 686 km route eastward to Haradh, taking the riders through some majestic wadis and canyons.
Ross Branch said, “It’s amazing to be here! We worked really hard for it. It has been a tough week, and I’m really happy to go into the rest day with a Stage Win. This morning I felt really good, the bike was excellent, and I decided to push as hard as I could. It was a good stage, the navigation was fine, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as I went all out and raced the whole thing! A big thank you to the team for all the amazing effort, and for not giving up on me. It’s a happy day, and hopefully we’ll gather some more wins next week!”