Local biker, Ross Branch is having a dream debut at the Dakar Rally as he leads the rookies, and sits in 18th spot overall, after stage seven.
He leads this year's rookies with German, Sebastian Buhler and Antonio Miao of Portugal in second and third. The duo is in overall position 20 and 21, respectively. Branch finished the 387km stage in 04:16:19 hours, 24:38 minutes behind overall leader, Sam Sunderland.
The defending champion finished in a time of 3:51:41 hours while South Africans, Kenneth Gilbert and Stuart Gregory are in 29th and 78th positions respectively. Branch had an impressive stage five performance as he asserted himself as he moved inside the top 25 bracket. He had a very difficult next two stages due to the rocky terrain.
Branch said his aim is to finish the 10-stage race, as from the 124 riders that started, only 93 remain as the world's toughest off road race is often marred by accidents, injuries and mechanical faults. "I got a bit upset with myself during stage six. I went in too hard in the beginning and made some mistakes in the dunes.
I eventually had to sit down and give myself a good talking to. I told myself that if I carried on like this the only thing I would become is a world champion at building sand castles. It was a really, really tough day (on stage seven). It was the third time that we used some of the routes.
It was really rough, caused the trucks to turn up a lot of rocks. It was not the safest day in my opinion, I did not have as much fun as I would have liked to but we kept it together and went back to the finish line with a decent position. We have a couple of days left, we just got make sure we finish the race at the end of this week, that's our main aim at the moment," he said.
The 'Kalahari Ferrari' will be competing in the longest of the last three stages left this evening, with a 575km of the stage eight. He will be looking to end the series as the leading rookie, bettering Vincent Crosbie's record. Crosbie became the first Motswana to compete at the event and finished sixth in the rookie standing and in an overall 36th position.