Stage 3 : Consistent top results for Hero Motosports as Desafio Ruta 40 crosses mid-way

– Riders Branch & Buhler finish again in top-10

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, crossed the finish-line of the 3rd Stage of Desafio Ruta 40 2023, with flying colors.

Factory riders Ross Branch and Sebastian Buhler have been consistently pushing forward since day 1, and posted excellent stage results yet again. Ross finished Stage 3 in the 4th fastest time, and just over 2 minutes Motoshim was Buhler, finishing in the 6th place. Having successfully crossed the half-way point of the rally, Branch and Buhler now hold the 4th and 8th ranks in the overall Rally GP class standings.

With 266 kms of mostly sand tracks and dunes, Stage 3 was a grueling one in true Dakar style. The loop around Belén – which also featured almost 200 kms in road sections – took the competitors northward to the Pie de Medano area of Catamarca, which the Latin American Dakar editions have visited several times. Tricky navigation was also on the menu for riders today, and they struggled to maintain their rhythm through the varying terrains. In the first part of the special, the rally also witnessed the highest dune peaks of this edition of the DR40 – riding almost 3000 metres above sea level.

For Ross Branch, Stage 3 was tough, yet a fulfilling day on his Hero 450 Rally. The day started very cold and discomforted, and he ended up making a few minor mistakes. It was also his first time riding at such high altitude, and he found the slowing down of man and machine at the peaks quite peculiar and challenging. However, the Botswanan pushed to maintain a steady flow, and his consistent finish today inches him closer to the overall rally podium – with just about 30 seconds left to the 3rd place.

Sebastian Buhler too, had a tough day in the sun and sand. It was also equally a fast stage, marked with navigational challenges. Through the many river sections, the German experienced difficulty in maintaining a fast rhythm, as the rocks on the river bed tend to have the same color as the sand. He still enjoyed the stage thoroughly, and finished well, just outside the top-5.

The competition within the elite Rally GP class is tight-necked now, with minimal time gaps separating the top-5, even as the Rally crosses its midpoint. With only two stages left in the rally, the battle for the DR40 podium is now in full swing.

The second loop from Belén in Stage 4 will take the riders deeper into the Catamarcan province, this time to its south and west parts. Yet another long day lies ahead, with over 584 km of riding, of which 348 kms in the sand and mountains will form the timed special.

Ross Branch: « Stage 3 was a really strange day for me. It’s the first time in life that I’ve ridden at around 3000 metres above sea level, and it was nothing like I imagined so far. It was really interesting to be up there experiencing the loss of power on the bike, difficulty in breathing, and more. Anyhow, I’m glad to be back in the bivouac in one piece with a good result, and am looking forward to the rest of the rally. »

Sebastian Buhler: « The stage today was quite fast and difficult. We met with quite a lot of riverbeds today, and it was difficult to maintain a safe and fast rhythm – all the more, as the stones in the rivers seemed to have the same color as the sand! I had to ride much carefully, but I enjoyed it well. I’m happy with my result, and eager to get on the next stage. »

Provisional Rankings – Stage 3 (Rally GP Class)
1. Tosha Schareina, Honda Team, 2h 58m 13s
2. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 1m 40s
3. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 1m 52s
4. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 7m 58s…
6. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 10m 15s…

Provisional Overall Standings after Stage 3 (Rally GP Class):
1. Tosha Schareina, Honda Team, 10h 20m 53s
2. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 6m 23s
3. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 22m 03s
4. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 22m 36s…
8. Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 35m 37s…