A steady stage 5 for Hero Motosports as Dakar enters the Empty Quarter

– Ross Branch reclaims overall lead position

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, completed the 5th of 12 Stages at the Dakar Rally 2024, with both their riders crossing the finish line successfully.

Hero rider Ross Branch finished well within the top-10 of the day, at the 6th place. Joan Barreda suffered a hard crash during the stage, and still managed to make it to the finish line in the 17th Rally GP class position.

Even though Stage 5 was a short special of 118 kms, the day started way earlier for the competitors, as they had to ride for almost 500 kms on road to reach the start point. The exhausted riders were welcomed by a sea of dunes, even as Dakar 2024 made its first entry into the infamous Empty Quarter.

For Ross Branch, the stage was a decent day rushing through the endless sand dunes – good, bad, and broken ones -in the Empty Quarter. He managed to finish just under 2 minutes from the podium. His consistent performance today takes him back to the top of the overall classifications of Dakar 2024 – making it the 4th time in the last 5 days that he has become the leader.

During the stage today Joan Barreda encountered a crash, faced some issues with his navigation, and ended up losing some time in the process. In the overall Rally GP class rankings, the Spaniard continues on the 11th place after 5 stages.

Up next is a new format introduced in Dakar 2024 – the 48-hour Chrono stage – a significant upgrade from the erstwhile marathon stages. Across the two days of Stage 6, competitors will cover almost 800 kilometers in the sea of dunes inside the Empty Quarter. As the clock strikes 4pm on the first day, the riders are required to stop at the nearest of the six rest areas, which are set up across the course of the special. At the rest areas, the competitors will receive bare minimum camping material and just enough provisions to make it through the night. They will also be cut off from all communication with the outside world – not knowing how they are doing against the competition.

In a first, riders will also spend over 8 hours in the special, maneuvering across the endless dune chains. Even though the terrain is not new to Dakar, the navigation is expected to be ‘fiendishly difficult’ – adding much more complexity to the 48-hour Chrono format.

Ross Branch: « Today was okay. It was 118 kms of just sand dunes. Some good dunes, some bad, some broken – a little bit of everything! We’re here in one piece, and in a good position to start tomorrow. Stage 6 is going to be super interesting, difficult, and really hard on the bikes and the riders. It’s going to be a long day, but let’s see how we can ace the new format.

Joan Barreda:  » It was not really a great day for me today. I started pushing on the dunes early on, and I got stuck in the dunes a bit, and faced issues with my cap repeater. So I had to keep looking on the GPS to navigate forward, and in the course I encountered a rather bad crash in some camel grass. I have a lot of pain in my body, but we will try our best to recover well for the next stage. »

Provisional Rankings – Stage 5 (Rally GP Class)
1. Pablo Quintanilla – Monster Energy Honda Team, 01h 32m 53s
2. Adrien Van Beveren – Monster Energy Honda Team, + 0m 37s
3. Toby Price – RedBull KTM Factory Racing, + 1m 39s…
6. Ross Branch – Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 3m 42s…
17. Joan Barreda Bort – Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 10m 25s…

Provisional Overall Rankings – at the end of Stage 5 (Rally GP Class)
1. Ross Branch – Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 19h 05m 03s
2. Ignacio Cornejo – Monster Energy Honda Team, + 1m 14s
3. Ricky Brabec – Monster Energy Honda Team, + 3m 47s…
11. Joan Barreda Bort – Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 48m 02s…