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Branch in steady push for Dakar title

KABELO BORANABI
Sppedstar: Branch navigates the sand dunes at the Dakar Rally 2021 PIC: CRISTIANO BARNI:YAMAHA
Local biker, Ross Branch has made a steady push for his first ever Dakar Rally title.

Branch is in Saudi Arabia competing in his third Dakar Rally. He finished as the best rookie in his debut race in 2019. Last year, he did not have the best time on the bike as he settled for 21st place.

This time around, the 'Kalahari Ferrari' said he was going for a win after securing a deal with the Monster Energy Yamaha team. Branch is making his debut in his new bike from the factory team and sits eighth after five stages.He got off to a promising start finishing fourth on the first of the 15-day competition and settled for the fourth spot in overall rankings. The biker moved to third place in overall standings after the second stage of the competition. He had finished fourth on the day. He however, did not have the same fortunes in the third round as his time on the bike was marred by poor navigation.

Branch lost a lot of ground with the leaders and dropped to sixth spot after finishing 17th on the day. He redeemed himself on Wednesday, which was stage four of the world's grueling race, finishing the stage in second place behind Spanish Joan Barreda Bort. He lived up to his nickname 'Kalahari Ferrari' as he showed great speed on the bike over a distance

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of 813km, the longest of the five stages this far. He was however, penalised for over-speeding in a controlled zone and was served with a one-minute penalty, which saw him drop to fourth place on the day, but he moved up to the third spot in overall rankings. "I had fun. I was a bit frustrated after I missed a waypoint from the get-go this morning.

Then, I wanted to see how fast I could go and find out what my bike's top speed was. Yamaha has done a great job with the bike and it's really fast, I'm not aiming to ride that fast. I need to stay consistent throughout the remaining stages to see how it all plays out," Branch told the Dakar Rally website. Yesterday, the 2021 Dakar Rally bike no.18 was below his best in the stage five of the competition as he came ninth while dropping down to position eight overall. Ahead of the sixth stage that starts early today (Friday), Argentine Kevin Benavides leads the rankings. This year's edition of the Dakar Rally proves to be the tougher of the two held in the Persian Gulf as 10 riders have withdrawn from the event in the first four days including Branch's teammate, Andrew Short of the USA.



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