A Top-5 finish in stage 7 for Hero as Dakar Rally rides into the 2nd week

– Ross maintains 2nd overall, reduces trail to 1 second !

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, finished the 7th of 12 Stages of the Dakar Rally with a Top-5 result.

Ross Branch completed the Stage with the 4th fastest time, and with it, solidified his 2nd position on the overall leaderboard. At the end of 7 Stages, the Botswanan is just 1 second behind the current leader of the Dakar Rally 2024. As the Rally enters its second leg, the competition in the top order has become extremely tight, with just about 6 minutes separating the top 3.

Arriving in Riyadh on Saturday, 13th January, the competitors enjoyed a well-deserved day of rest, after completing 6 incredible stages and over 4000 kms in the saddle. The assistance crews spent the day getting the men and machines back into shape, to ace yet another week of intense racing.

Stage 7 on 14th January was the longest Stage of Dakar 2024 in terms of kilometers to cover in a day. Starting the day as early as 4 am, Ross Branch left the Hero camp on a 255 km road section, before getting onboard the 483 km special. He reached the bivouac in Ha’il after completing another 136 kms by road. Continuing the trend so far, Stage 7 was yet another long and difficult special, set amidst canyons, dunes, wadis, and off-piste fast tracks.

Since the beginning of the 46th Dakar Rally, Ross Branch has been at the fore of the leaderboard, 4 out of 7 times bagging the number 1 position. The lone man left in the Hero line-up, ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ saw all 3 of his team-mates exit from the race in the first week. Several other top competitors and peers of Ross – as many as 10 of the 23 Rally GP class riders who started out from AlUla – have retired midway due to injury or mechanical failures. It goes on to say how much more demanding Dakar 2024 has been, as compared to the previous editions – just like the organizers predicted it to be.

However, a confident Ross (or ‘Rossi’ as he’s fondly known in the Dakar bivouac) continues to hold his fort at the top – managing the many pressures of the rally, and the hopes of millions of supporters from across the globe – all with a broad smile, like always.

Moving on from the bivouac in Al Duwadimi, the competitors will now head north-west to Ha’il, on a slightly easier Stage that will feature sand and stones. The change of sceneries will require the riders to stay on high-alert though, as the rugged terrain may cause easy punctures.

Ross Branch: « It was a long stage today as well – 480 kms of really tough riding. But it was also a lot of fun. Lots of open flowing tracks and wadis and some dunes in the middle – I enjoyed it! The race in the front is now really close, so we’ve got a few days to manage it well and see what we can do. Thank you all for the support! »

Provisional Rankings – Stage 7
1. Ignacio Cornejo, Monster Energy Honda Team, 05h 18m 33s
2. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna Factory Racing, + 3m 12s
3. Kevin Benavides, RedBull KTM Factory Racing, + 3m 32s
4. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 6m 36s…

Provisional Overall Rankings – at the end of Stage 7
1. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Team, 32h 37m 20s
2. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 0m 01s
3. Ignacio Cornejo, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 6m 48s
4. Adrien Van Beveren, Monster Energy Honda Team, + 14m 39s
5. Kevin Benavides, RedBull KTM Factory Racing, + 24m 39s…