Hero Motosports battles through a tough stage 4 at the Desafio Ruta 40

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, completed the 4th and penultimate Stage of the 2023 edition of Desafio Ruta 40.

Competing in the premier Rally GP class, Hero MotoSports rider Ross Branch finished the stage in the 6th position. His fellow rider Sebastian Buhler, however, could not finish Stage 4, and has exited the rally as per the FIM regulations.

Clocking almost 600 kms on the saddle, the competitors found the second loop around Belén difficult, and extremely exhausting. The day started off in a dried-up river that challenged the competitors with its complex twists and turns. The route soon shifted base to the famous dunes of Fiambalá, which formed almost 70% of the second half of the race. Dunes were interspersed with plateaus decked with camel grass – and maneuvering them proved to be a highly draining exercise for both man and machine. Those who reached the end of the 345 km dune special were greeted with yet another 227 kms on road to return to the bivouac in Belén.

Having spent over 7 hours on the bike, Stage 4 was indeed a long and tiring day for Ross. The dunes caught up on him, and he found himself stuck in the sand a couple of times through the day. Even though he lost a bit of time, the Botswanan star pushed with all his might to finish well within the top-10. His consistent performance so far in the race keeps him steadied at the 4th overall rank in the Rally GP class.

Sebastian Buhler made a calculated ride and performed exceptionally well until almost the last waypoint, powering through in the top-10. However, an unfortunate mechanical issue at around 300 kms forced the German to halt at one of the remotest corners of the Fiambalá dunes. Unable to continue the race, he requested to be extracted from there by the organization. The FIM Regulations do not allow Buhler to resume the race tomorrow, leaving Ross Branch as the sole representative of Hero MotoSports at the DR40.

With just one stage left in the race, the competitors will now focus on going all in on a final dash to improve their positions. Perched at the 4th overall position and 6 minutes behind the podium, it will be a tight run for Ross in the last and final stage on Friday.

Stage 5, the finale, will resume a northwest course towards Salta, the finishing point of this edition of the DR40. It will be yet another long stage with 257 kms of competitive racing and over 300 kms on the road – leaving ground for last minute surprises in the final tally. All eyes will be on the final podium, as competitors embark on the last day of this phenomenal rally.

Ross Branch: « Stage 4 is done with. It has been an extremely long and tiring day, and I’ve been riding for over 7 hours straight. The dunes caught up with me a bit, and I got stuck a couple of times. I ended up losing a bit of time getting out. However, I’m happy to be back in one piece, and thankful for my amazing bike which did a great job today. Looking forward to a good day tomorrow. »

Sebastian Buhler: « Today’s stage started out well for me, and I was able to maintain a good rhythm. However, I faced a technical failure at 301 km – a very remote part of the dunes – and I had to wait for an extraction by the sweeper team. It’s not how I expected the day to turn out, but this is how rallies are – nothing is predictable. »

Provisional Rankings – Stage 4 (Rally GP Class)
1. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 2h 53m 57s
2. Tosha Schareina, Honda Team, + 0m 36s
3. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 1m 46s
6. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 7m 23s…
DNF Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, DNF

Provisional Overall Standings after Stage 4 (Rally GP Class)
1. Tosha Schareina, Honda Team, 13h 15m 26s
2. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 5m 47s
3. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 23m 13s
4. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 29m 23s…
DNF Sebastian Buhler, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, DNF