Hero Motosports team Rally wins the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

– Aaron Maré claims victory for the team

– The Indian Factory team leads FIM Wotld Rallye-Raid Championship

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport team of the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters – Hero MotoCorp, has emerged winners of the 33rd edition of the prestigious Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. This is the 7-year young team’s first triumph at a World Championship race, and also comes right after their historic Dakar podium finish in January 2024.

Rally GP class rider Aaron Marè won the race for Team Hero MotoSports, by showcasing a phenomenal performance at the 6-day desert rally. Even though Aaron joined the team as a substitute for factory rider Sebastian Buhler (who is still recovering from his Dakar 2024 crash), the young South African residing in Dubai performed at his peak to lead the race for 4 straight days, and eventually finishing on the winner podium. Backed with a relentless team effort, this sweet victory brings home a first World Championship race win for the Indian manufacturer team.

Collecting several points from a round win, Hero MotoSports has catapulted to the top of the manufacturers leader board of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) 2024 – this is also the first time an Indian manufacturer has reached this level on a global stage.

Hero’s factory rider Ross Branch finished just outside the podium, in the fourth overall place. Fondly known as the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’, Ross laid out a dominant position for himself and the team right at the start with a Win in the Prologue stage. However, while leading the race on Stage 1, he faced a mechanical issue. With a bit of luck and smart effort, the airline pilot could make it to the finish, and continue in the race. Even though this fiasco set him back by over 45 minutes from the lead, Ross made consistent efforts till the end. By finishing 2nd in the Rally GP class at this second race of the season, Ross has today raised his total points to 50, making himself the leader of the World Rally-Raid Championship 2024 – another first for Team Hero MotoSports.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is a widely popular for its 100% sand and desert terrains – a highly intensive week of racing under the hot sun in the Rub Al’ Khali (Empty Quarter). For Team Hero, however, the struggles started even before the race commenced – starting with the last minute replacement of team rider Sebastian Buhler who didn’t feel fit enough since his Dakar injuries. The team also had to wait up until the last moment to receive their bikes and material cleared from the Customs, leaving them with just under a day to prepare for the race. This adversely affected the team’s performance, leading to a mechanical issue for Ross’ engine in Stage 1.

Regardless of their many setbacks, the lean team consistently outperformed their competition, and bagged pole positions in the Prologue & 4 Stages, eventually winning the Rally. This dominant victory stands as a strong testament to the team’s constant efforts, dedication, and years of passionate perseverance.

The next challenge for the team arrives in less than a month – the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid to be held in Portugal and Spain – the third round of the W2RC 2024. As leaders of the World Championship in both the Rider rankings and the Manufacturer rankings, the team is sure to chase loftier targets.

Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager & Head, Hero MotoSports Team Rally: « We are very happy to be here at the finish of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, this time as the winners of this iconic race! It has been a real roller-coaster of a week for us even before the race started – a last minute replacement for Sebastian Buhler, and then a delayed arrival of our bikes from Customs. However, we could start off well with Ross winning the Prologue and earning a dominant position. Overcoming the setback from a mechanical issue, Ross was still able to earn maximum points in the World Championship. I am also really happy with how Aaron stepped up to the challenge and did a wonderful job all through the race, bringing us this fantastic result.
« As a team, our achievement is also triple-fold – it’s our first victory at a World Championship race, it’s the first time we are leading the World Championship Rider rankings (with Ross), and it’s also the first time Hero is leading the Manufacturer rankings in a World Championship! I’m extremely happy with what the team has achieved, and look forward to the rest of the season. A big thank you to all our partners and fans for your continued support and love. »

Aaron Maré: « I’m super happy to get the overall victory at ADDC. I can’t thank Hero MotoSports, Waffi and the team enough for getting me up here. It was an amazing opportunity, and I made the most of it. I was also fortunate to ride along with Ross Branch who came fresh from his Dakar podium, and learn a lot from him. We were team mates several years back, and it was a wonderful time spent with him here. I look forward to the upcoming races in the year. »

Ross Branch: « This was definitely a bittersweet rally for me. After our setback in Stage 1, we managed to gather up the maximum Championship points – which was obviously our main objective. I got to the finish line safe, and I’m really happy with how the race went. I got to open the stages on several days, won a couple of Stages, had a lot of fun and gained some more experience. A big thank you and heartfelt appreciations to the team and everyone else who got us till here. We will now head to Portugal on a high next month! »

Final Rankings – Stage 5:
1. Aaron Maré, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 3h 21m 41s
2. Jean-Loup Lepan, Duust Rally Team, + 2m 04s
3. Konrad Dabrowski, Duust Rally Team, + 5m 09s
4. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 7m 31s
5. Jan Brabec, Strojrent Racing, + 17m 41s

Overall Standings after Stage 5:
1. Aaron Maré, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 13h 55m 15s
2. Konrad Dabrowski, Duust Rally Team, + 10m 14s
3. Jean-Loup Lepan, Duust Rally Team, + 22m 05s
4. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, + 47m 55s
5. Jan Brabec, Strojrent Racing, + 1h 39m 41s

2024 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship Standings (After Round 2) : 1. Ross Branch, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 50 points ; 2. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda Team, 38 points ; 3. Aaron Maré, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 25 points ; 4. Adrien Van Beveren, Monster Energy Honda Team, 24 points ; 5. Ignacio Cornejo, Monster Energy Honda Team, 20 points…