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'Kalahari Ferrari' leaves indelible mark in the Persian Gulf

KABELO BORANABI
Cruising through: Branch won the second stage of the Dakar Rally
From flying over the picturesque Okavango Delta as well as conquering the Kalahari Desert, Ross Branch, has travelled several thousand miles to the Persian Gulf for one of the world's most gruelling off road races, the Dakar Rally.

And in only his second appearance, Branch has  wasted no time, as he left indelible marks on the Saudi Arabian sands.

In his first attempt at the most gruelling race, the Dakar Rally, Branch finished 13th and walked away with the best rookie award.

Pundits say proper navigation, endurance and speed are all a rider needs to complete the Dakar Rally. Branch, a commercial pilot, took a big leap in to the world stage and competed at the Dakar Rally.

The rider had dominated the local desert, with a number of triumphs both off road and motocross, earning him the nickname ‘the Kalahari Ferrari’. After a number of triumphs in the country’s biggest motorsport race, the 1000km Toyota Desert Race, Branch became the first Motswana to win the South African National Cross Country Championships. His reputation soared after a number of brave performances at the Merzouga and Morocco rallies in the North African deserts.

This year, the 33-year-old has gone several gears further with a maiden stage win on day two. On the day, Branch finished ahead of the former winner, Toby Price of Australia, and Briton, Sam Sunderland.

He however had a fall on stage three and injured his shoulder, which affected his performance. After being cleared by the technical, Branch put on a brave fight to finish 18th on stage four before finishing seventh on stage five to occupy

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14th in the overall standings.

The stage five robbed Sunderland of another Dakar Rally title, while presenting Branch as one of the favourites to win the rally. He has been placed amongst Price, American Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides of Argentina. Almost halfway through the 10, 000km race, Branch is hoping his days will be as good as stage two.

“The days are getting better. My shoulder is still quite sore, so I’m just trying to look after that and keep the speed up.

Today was good. The navigation wasn’t as bad as it was yesterday, though the off-piste was really, really hard today, so I tried to hang on to the top four guys and just see what they did through there and try and learn a bit from them. All in all, it was a good day. The dunes were very different and not what I was expecting.”

“They had a lot of grass and camel grass on them, so it was really difficult. The bike was jumping around a lot and took a lot of energy, but, yeah, it was a good stage. The sand is definitely hard now, but I think once the cars have gone through, it’s going to get really soft, but it was good, it was enjoyable,” Branch is quoted by the Dakar Rally website after stage five on Thursday.



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