Hero Motosports posts a strong stage 1 result at the Desafio Ruta 40

– Team riders Ross and Buhler finish in top-10

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, successfully completed the first and longest stage of Desafio Ruta 40 2023, posting a solid result. Rally GP class riders Ross Branch and Sebastian Buhler crossed the finish line at impressive 5th and 7th positions respectively.

Clocking almost 700 kilometers, Stage 1 was the longest day of the rally, and featured some extreme WRC style gravel tracks through most of the route. The route was a loop around the bivouac taking the competitors south of La Rioja, to Olta – the ultimate destination for off-road racing fans visiting the province. The 334 km special featured riverbeds, narrow gravel tracks, and some tricky undulating tracks through the mountains.

Sebastian Buhler and Ross Branch were the 2nd and 3rd riders to start the stage, and they rode remarkably well to finish in great positions. When crossing the finish of this long special, Branch was just under 3.5 minutes behind the winner, and Buhler, 7 minutes.

Even though long and exhausting, Ross found the WRC-style stage enjoyable and rewarding. Buhler too, had his fun on the long first stage. Even though he lost some time towards the start in a riverbed, he was able to pull it back together in the second half while riding through the fast pistes. Having completed one of five stages, Ross and Buhler currently enjoy the 5th and 7th positions in the overall Rally GP class rankings.

A solid Stage 1 performance, coupled with very little time lost so far – places both the riders in a good position to move up the ranks comfortably through the week.

Moving on from La Rioja, Stage 2 will take the Rally northward to Belén – a small town in the province of Catamarca, through which the Ruta Nacional 40 passes by. On this 460 km route, navigation will be of great importance, even as the competitors take on new challenges posed by the mountains and valleys, desert dunes and gravel. For the next three days, the Rally will be stationed at Belén, as the competitors continue to re-discover the landmark locations traversed by the Dakar until a few years ago.

Ross Branch: « Stage 1 was quite a nice stage, a typical WRC-style race, with lots of slippery turns and fast tracks. I enjoyed it well, and am happy with my performance. I’m in a good starting position for tomorrow, and I understand navigation is going to be more difficult in Stage 2. I’m excited to see what unfolds! »

Sebastian Buhler: « It was quite a nice stage, even though it was a very long day. We started in a big riverbed, and then headed onto fast pistes. I lost a bit of time in the river, but I was able to make it up in the later hours. Considering the position at which I started, I don’t think we lost much time today. I get to start towards the back tomorrow, and I hope to make the best of it. »

Provisional Rankings – Stage 1 (Rally GP Class)
1. Tosha Schareina, Honda Team, 3h 00m 12s
2. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 0m 17s
3. Pablo Quintanilla, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 1m 16s
5. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 3m 26s
7. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 7m 07s

Provisional Overall Standings after Stage 1 (Rally GP Class):
1. Tosha Schareina, Honda Team, 3h 55m 00s
2. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 0m 01s
3. Adrien Van Beveren, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 1m 09s
5. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 4m 06s
7. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 8m 43s