Hero Motosports registers a strong finish at Rally du Maroc with two riders in top-10

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, concluded their campaign at the 2022 edition of Rallye Du Maroc, with two of their riders finishing in the top-10 positions. This was indeed a mini-Dakar, with the riders covering over 2330 kms in pure desert conditions.

The Hero MotoSports team of four riders was back in the desert, and at a race, after almost a 7-month gap since Abu Dhabi, owing to the cancelation and postponement of certain races. Having utilized the break well to train and prepare, the team showcased a phenomenal performance in Morocco – bagging the top positions on multiple days, and even leading the overall scorecard of a World Championship race – a first for an Indian manufacturer team.

The last stage of the race, Stage 5 started today from the bivouac in Tan-Tan taking the riders on a 380 km final sprint along the Atlantic Coast, taking them back to the city of Agadir. The coastal setting offered magnificent landscapes for the competitors to pass through – indeed a spectacular conclusion to this edition of the Rallye du Maroc.

Ross Branch, in his second appearance in Hero colors, delivered a stellar performance all throughout the rally – bagging two consecutive stage wins, a stage podium and another top-5 stage finish. In the fifth and final stage today, he finished with the 7th fastest time. However, a time penalty that he faced in one of the earlier stages cost him a good overall finish. Back safe in Agadir after a week in the desert, the Botswanan finds himself in the 8th place in the overall Rally GP class standings.

Continuing his steady performance all through the race, Franco Caimi finished today’s stage just ahead of Ross in the 6th position, in the Rally GP class. Having constantly improved his performance throughout the six days of continuous racing, the Argentine has earned himself a commendable 9th place on the final Rally GP Class rankings table.

For Sebastian Buhler, Rallye Du Maroc was a return to the saddle after almost a year of absence from races, owing to an injury. The young rider from Portugal faced some difficulty getting into the rhythm at the start of the rally, however, his persistent run through the week gave him a great opportunity to reclaim his pace and feeling with the bike. Having finished the last stage in top-10, Buhler has moved up to the 12th place in the overall Rally GP class standings.

For Hero’s veteran Joaquim Rodrigues, Maroc did not go as well as expected. With two crashes in two consecutive stages, the Dakar stage winner made the tough decision to exit from the race after Stage 3, to avoid any further injury that would hamper his preparations for the upcoming races – especially the Dakar 2023. However, the rally expert stayed on with the team till the end, in a bid to keep the riders motivated, and help them progress daily.

With the Rallye du Maroc completed, the teams are now making their quick move to the next bivouac in Seville, Spain, to start the Andalucia Rally next week. This will be the last and final run of tests and preparations for the teams before they hit the Dakar Rally 2023, rumored to be tougher than ever.

Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally: « The Rallye du Maroc was as usual, tough for man & machine – a perfect proving ground for our preparations for the Dakar. We are quite happy with the overall team performance here, with the entire team having put their best foot forward. Ross achieved three stage podiums, with 2 of them being wins. JRod showcased a really competitive speed until he had to unfortunately leave the race, to avoid the risk of a bigger injury. Three of our riders were also coming back from injury – Ross, Franco and Buhler. It’s promising to see them getting back up to speed again, with their focus on the Dakar. For Ross, we were hoping for a podium finish, but unfortunately his overall results were affected by a 15-minute penalty; but we see him absolutely fit to be fighting for podiums in the next races.
« Our team is fit and ready for the next race that starts in just a couple of days in Andalucia – the last and final round of the W2RC 2022. Thanks to the entire team for their tireless efforts, even as we make our last preparations for the next race, and of course, the Dakar.”

Ross Branch: « It’s been some time since I finished a rally, and I’m extremely happy to be here at the finish of the Maroc rally! I’m glad how the whole week turned out – we had some great times, and of course some unfortunate things, but that’s all part of racing. The team is incredible, and we are in a really good position; I know our future is bright. Personally, I’m much more confident now with my speed, and very comfortable with my bike. Looking forward to Andalucia, and of course the big one, the Dakar. »

Franco Caimi: « Rallye Du Maroc was a really challenging race, almost like the Dakar, and I’m happy to reach the finish. Today was a good stage, and I ended up with a good feeling on the bike – which is really important. I have been working daily on my navigation skills, and there are still some areas to improve. However, I’m very happy with what we could achieve – the improvements and the overall performance. Eager to race again in a week’s time, in Andalucia. »

Sebastian Buhler: « I’m happy to have finished yet another Rally. Overall, it was a good race for me, and for the team. It has been so long for us – without any racing, and also any desert action. Each day here I have been gaining my confidence back. I feel much better now than at the beginning, and I’m grateful for that. We will continue working hard to get in the best shape for Dakar. »

Final Rankings – Stage 5 (Rally GP Class)
1. Adrien Van Beveren, Monster Energy Honda Team, 01h 37m 30s
2. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 06s…
6. Franco Caimi, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 4m 06s…
7. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 5m 44s…
10. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 7m 34s…

Overall Standings after Stage 5 (Rally GP Class)
1. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 16h 30m 29s
2. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 7m 13s
3. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 10m 48s…
8. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 26m 26s
9. Franco Caimi, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 33m 44s…
12. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 58m 28s


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