Funds threaten Branch's Saudi Dakar dream


After the decision to move the 2020 Dakar Rally to Saudi Arabia, top local rider, Ross Branch is keen to travel to the Persian Gulf nation, but funds might prove to be his stumbling block.

Branch made his debut at the 2019 Dakar Rally, regarded as the toughest endurance off-road race, and performed exceedingly well as he finished as the best rookie in the motorcycle section.

The organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) indicated they wanted to move the race to a new venue after 10 years in South America.

The Dakar Rally originally ran from Paris, France and finished in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, but was moved to South America in 2009 due to security concerns.

After a decade in South America, there were hopes the rally would return ‘home’ but instead, Saudi Arabia will host the race for the next five editions.

Botswana, South Africa and Namibia had been credited with interest in hosting the Dakar Rally due to ideal desert conditions.

“I am really happy the race is going to a new venue. It has been amazing in South America and it’s a good time to move on. I think the race will be very difficult as the terrain in Saudi can be very harsh,” he said.

Branch said as much as he would like to participate, costs might prove prohibitive.

Riders pay as high as $75,000 (P750,000) as participation fee, without the corresponding cash prize monies.

Branch returned empty-handed despite finishing as the best rookie at this year’s edition. He spent more than P1.3 million to participate at the race.

“I would really like to do that again. We are just trying to make a decision if we can go again, as funds are very limited at the moment.

However, I will try my best to be on the start line in January,” Branch said. Branch became the second Motswana to take part in the gruelling race, after compatriot, Vincent Crosbie in 2017.

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