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Dakar 2024 – Could it be our hero on a Hero?

Image source: Hero MotoSports

The Dakar is known for dishing up huge excitement and drama as the race gets into its final stages and 2024 looks like it will be no exception. What has been noteworthy this year is how the dominant KTM/Husqvarna/GasGas have not been able to mount their customary challenge. While it is not over till it’s over, as the saying goes, it seems unlikely after the completion of 9 Stages, and with 3 Stages still to go, that one of these bikes can podium. The top KTM, ridden by Kevin Benavides, the 2023 winner [on a Honda], is in 5th place, 28 minutes off the leader. He is 13 minutes astern of ‘Nacho’ Cornejo’s Honda.

The top three riders are where the drama is unfolding. We have our Botswana boytie, and local hero Ross Branch, in second place. Hero ham in a Honda sandwich. Let’s just pause a moment and reflect on the incredible performance of Branch in this year’s Dakar. Ross finished third in the Prologue to the Dakar, and then, with a display of hugely consistent and fast riding, won stage 1 and held the overall lead for the next two stages. Nacho Cornejo on his Honda wrested the lead from Ross on stage 4, only for the Hero rider to take it right back by the end of stage 5.

Image source: Hero MotoSports

Hounded by a trio of Honda’s, Ross lay second to Ricky Brabec after stage 6, and then stage 7, by a mere 1 sec! The final few stages of the Dakar become extremely strategic. If you win a stage, you lead the field out the next day, having to try and go fast and navigate accurately. The following riders follow your dust just keeping an eye on the navigation to make sure that the leader has not gone wrong. It is much easier for these riders to go fast. Ross’s problem is that he has three Honda’s to contend with. Ricky Brabec can get one of his teammates to lead out and even win the stage while he shadows him. His teammates are hugely experienced boys in Adrien Van Beveren and Nacho Cornejo.

As things stand, At the end of today’s 9TH stage, Ross Branch and his Hero are lying in second. Adrien Van Beveren led Brabec home in second, on the stage, managing to open a 7’ 09” advantage over Ross, who holds onto second place by just over 4 minutes from Van Beveren. There are three more stages to go. In total there is still 1524 k’s to cover of which 1026 k’s comprise specials. 13 minutes separate the top 4 riders with the KTM family 15 minutes adrift of them.

Image source: Hero MotoSports

To say that Ross is racing the race of his life is an understatement. He has competed with the might of Honda’s HRC and traded blow for blow on his Hero. He has shown that they give away nothing! Hero and Branch are totally capable of winning this Dakar against the best competition in the world. How it all plays out in the final three chapters of this drama remains to be seen.

What is abundantly clear is that both Hero and Ross Branch are making an undeniable statement of excellence. You simply can’t ask more of anyone. Is there maybe a fairytale ending to this story for our hero on his Hero? The next three days will reveal all.

Image source: Hero MotoSports

For more information on Hero Motorcycles visit: www.heromotorcycles.co.za

Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers. I consider cars as four wheeled shopping baskets and only worth using as a last resort! For years bikes have been my primary transport. Racing, touring, commuting or just kicking up dust on African tracks, I have owned over 270 motorcycles and ridden millions of kilometres. I am happiest when sharing my passion for motorcycles with like minded people whilst traversing Africa in search of adventure.
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