– Ross Branch wins the prologue stage
Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, has begun its campaign at the third round of the FIA-FIM World Rally-Raid Championship – the Rallye Du Maroc 2022. The rally started with a qualifying stage (prologue) on October 1st, and team rider Ross Branch emerged the fastest in this very first round.
This edition marks the third appearance of the Hero team at this pure desert race, often considered a ‘mini-Dakar’. Piloting the Hero Rally 450 bikes in the dunes of Morocco will be the entire line-up of the Hero MotoSports team – Joaquim Rodrigues, Sebastian Buhler, Franco Caimi, and Ross Branch. Maroc is Ross Branch’s second outing with the team, and it also features the return of Sebastian Buhler, after his injury from almost a year ago.
After successfully completing the administrative checks and technical scrutiny on Friday, the riders took to the start line of the Prologue stage (Stage 1A) on Saturday, October 1st – a quick 9 km of special and 49 km of liaisons around Agadir – composed mainly of sands, winding tracks and tracks. Ross Branch won the Stage 1A (prologue), Joaquim Rodrigues finished in the 7th position, followed by Sebastian Buhler and Franco Caimi in 9th and 11th places respectively in the Rally GP class. By having won the prologue stage, Ross gained the priority advantage within the top-15 to pick his start position for the first stage towards the latter end of the order. Starting tomorrow at the 15th position, he hopes to utilize this headway for a good run.
The third race of the World Championship looks promising for Hero MotoSports, having started it on a remarkable note at the Dakar in January, followed by a commendable performance at Abu Dhabi in March which included a Stage win and two top-10 finishes. Back in full force after months of rigorous preparations, the team is confident of returning with great exploits from Morocco.
This edition of Maroc promises extreme action for 6 consecutive days in the desert, covering over 2330km through varied terrains, and even offering some beautiful sea-side views for the first time.
The first full stage of the Rallye Du Maroc 2022 is due on Sunday, October 2nd, and this will give the riders a sweet taste of the desert they’ve missed for long – with a 322 km long special in the sands of Sahara. The team will start from the city of Agadir, and end the day in the desert, at Tan Tan, after also completing transport sections of around 240 kms.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally: « We’re happy to be back here in Agadir, all set to start the Rallye Du Maroc 2022. This was supposed to be the last round of the World Rally-Raid Championship 2022, but due to some changes in the calendar, mainly the cancellation of the Rally Kazakhstan and postponement of the Andalucia Rally, we still have one more race to go in this season.
« It’s also great to be back racing after almost a 6-7 months break, and with the full team together for the first time! I’m glad to have Sebastian Buhler back in action after his injury almost a year ago, and Franco Caimi as well, who had about 3 months left to recover from his arm injury. We’ve utilized the long break well by preparing the team to its best shape.
« It is very exciting to have started our Maroc campaign with a stage win for Ross in the prologue. I’m looking forward to a great run here at Maroc – it’s a classic race on the calendar, which also resembles the Dakar in a lot of ways. This time round the rally goes on some entirely new routes as well, including a long stretch by the seaside down south. Looking forward eagerly for all that unfolds in the next few days. »
Ross Branch: « It was really fun to be back on the track today on my Hero Rally 450. 9 kms in the prologue was really short, but I had a lot of fun – it was just like my motocross days – the stage had quite a few big burns and jumps, and my Hero performed at its peak. I’m happy to have finished at the top; it’s a good start to the week, and I look forward to the rest of the race. »
Joaquim Rodrigues: « The prologue here at Agadir was a good beginning, even though it wasn’t my best performance. I’m still in the top-10 in the prologue, so that’s good for the start tomorrow. We have been working hard, the bikes are running well, and I am feeling good. So, looking forward to a good rally! »
Sebastian Buhler: « It’s so great to be back after nearly one year of being away from races. I’ve been training a lot and recovering, and so, happy to see good results today. In the stage, I tried to get into the rhythm slowly, and not making any mistakes. The goal obviously is to reach the Dakar this time, and with a good pace. »
Franco Caimi: « I’m super happy to be back with the team and racing after seven months! It’s a great feeling to enjoy the adrenaline pumping up again. The prologue today was not my best performance, but the race is just getting started, and I am super motivated to get back on the bike. Today was definitely a good first contact before the show that starts tomorrow; it’s a long stage tomorrow with some tricky navigation, and I’m excited to see how it goes! »
Provisional Rankings – Stage 1A (Rally GP Class)
1. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 01h 01m 28s
2. Toby Price, Red Bull KTM Factory Team, + 40s
3. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 56s…
7. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 2m 24s….
9. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 2m 48s…
11. Franco Caimi, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 3m 28s…