Local biker, Ross Branch sent worrying signs to local fans, with injury concerns ahead of the 2020 Dakar Rally to be held in Saudi Arabia, early January.
Branch missed out on the final round of the South African Cross Country championships last week due to a back injury.
The rider was just three points behind Brother Leader Tread KTM teammate Louwrens Mahoney ahead of a winner takes all double-header round held at Bronkhorstspruit, Pretoria.
Branch pulled out of the event relinquishing his chances of clinching the title he first won in 2016 while Mahoney won his seventh of his career in his last bow.
Speaking to Mmegi Sport, the 33-year-old Branch expressed his disappointment on missing the title but revealed that he has since returned to the saddle and continues preparations for the Dakar Rally.
“Unfortunately I had a bit of an incident ahead of the South African Championships, it was not too serious, (it) was just a back injury. So today (Thursday) I started training again,” he said.
“I am feeling very good; the injury was not going to affect me anyhow. I am back on the Dakar bike, so I am very excited. We have had really good preparations; the Dakar is not far away, we are still doing a bit of fund raising because we are still short on funds.”
The rider said he is raring to go and started working in the gym this week.
“The target in my mind is really good. We are going to the Dakar for the second time, so we know what to expect.
We know how the race is going to be and we know how the navigation works, so I am much more confident going into the race, but still it’s the Dakar, anything can happen.
You need a lot of luck on your side to do well. Obviously, I would want to get a better result, than I did this year,” Branch said.
Branch had a memorable debut at the 2019 Dakar Rally, finishing as the best rookie and in an overall position of 13. The Kalahari Ferrari is rider number 18 at the next year event.
He only became the second Motswana to compete at the iconic event after Vincent Crosbie in 2017. Crosbie, however, finished 36th overall while securing the eighth best finish in the rookie section.
With the Dakar Rally, just two months away, local fans will have the last chance to catch a glimpse of their hero in action before heading out to the Dakar Rally. Branch will be competing at the Kumakwane 200 Off-Road race.
He leaves for the race on December 27, and it is the first time in more than a decade that the race has moved from South America, to the Persian Gulf.
The rider is fresh from the last round of the World Championships in Morocco, where all the Dakar riders participated.
“There was a lot on the line and I learnt so much out of the six days of racing. Racing through the Moroccan desert with the harsh terrain is different from what I am used to. My best stage finish was fourth for the day and eighth overall, so it was a really good result. With all the guys (from the Dakar) there, I wanted to see where I could finish. It was an extremely good rally. I can go to the Dakar with a lot of confidence,” he said.
He did over 3,000km of racing in Morocco and said he was now looking forward to the Dakar Rally.
Meanwhile, the annual 1,000km Toyota Desert Race will be held on the weekend of June 26-28, 2020 in Selebi-Phikwe.