Branch off to promising start at Dakar Rally


Following a promising start at the Dakar Rally, local biker, Ross Branch is steadily improving his rankings as he finished stage three of the competition sitting on position 25 out of 124 participants.

Branch completed the 798km between San Juan de Marcona and Arequipa on Wednesday, in a time of 04:53:57 hours, finishing just 00:46:15 hours behind leader, Xavier de Soultrait of France.

This was the longest distant thus far as Branch finished as the leading African at the race with South African, Kenneth Gilbert completing the stage three on 28th position while countryman, Stuart Gregory finished 80th. The ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ is the third leading rookie after stage three behind Spanish, Lorenzo Santolino and Skyler Howes of the United States of America. Last evening, the competitors began the ‘marathon race’ that forms stage four and stage five of the 10-stage race, which is a distance of 1,287km.

 In the two-day, competitors are not permitted to change such key components as the engine (including the engine case, cylinders and cylinder heads), the frame, the forks or swinging arm. The Dakar Rally is 32-year-old Branch’s biggest race thus far as he look to improve his standings.

He said he is pumped up for the demanding stages after the impressive first three stages. The Johannesburg-born rider served a penalty on stage two before having a set back on Wednesday in the stage three due to navigation problems.

“Today (Wednesday) it was a bit difficult (but) I learnt a lot.  I did a lot of navigation errors it cost me some of the time. It was all part of the learning experience; I gave it a good shot, put a hammer down. I have good speed gain but after this stage we have a got a lot marathon stages ahead of us now.  I’m looking forward to it, I have done it before, you have to carry everything with you and I am really excited,” Branch said on his Facebook page.

The riders will have a rest day on Sunday as the race ends on January 16, 2019.

Branch is making his debut at the prestigious competition, becoming the second local biker to compete after Vincent Crosbie achieved the feat in 2017.  Crosbie finished an overall 36th while he was sixth in the rookie standings.

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