Local biker, Ross Branch is gearing to turn his engines a notch higher at the 2022 Dakar Rally as he eyes a top five finish. Branch will be competing in his fourth Dakar Rally race from January 2-14 next year in Saudi Arabia.
The biker, in his first appearance in 2019, bagged the Rookie Award finishing 13th in overall standings as he officially announced his arrival on motorsport’s biggest stage. In his second appearance, Branch came in at 21st position and claimed his maiden and only stage win at the event. This year, he did not have the best of luck as he came out of the race at stage nine of the competition due to an accident. The biker, who has proven to be a reliable ambassador of the Blue, Black and White (Botswana flag) told Mmegi Sport he has drawn inspiration from the 2020 Olympic Games team and the recent showing by the country’s representative at the Miss World pageant. As the baton passes to him early next year, Branch says he will be aiming to be among the top five finishers. “I feel that I have learnt so much this year, so the approach is basically that I want to get to the finishing line. The previous two Dakars I have had a little bit of issues and ups and downs.
I want to get to the finish; if I get to the finish I am pretty sure I can get to a good position.” “Going into my fourth Dakar, I am in a position where I feel I have to go to the top five. I think I have the speed and the skills to do it at the moment. It is such a long race and anything can happen. You just have to give it your best shot and have fun.
I think last year I was under a lot of pressure and the fun aspect was not there; I need to bring that back. When you are having fun, you are going fast, and when you are going fast, you are doing well.
That is how I am going to be taking this edition. “I would not want to let the country down; you know with the Olympics we did well, our queen is doing well (at Miss World) so it is now up to me to make the country and my sponsors proud,” Branch said.
The 35-year-old has had a topsy-turvy season in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. He had a blistering start to his debut World Championship appearance and won the first round at the Kazakhstan Rally in June. In round two, Branch had a race to forget at the Silk Way Rally held in Russia.
The rider dropped out of round two after his motorcycle broke down just 49km into stage three of the Silk Way Rally. He went onto settle for the 25th place at the fourth round of the championship Rallye du Maroc before finishing 14th at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which was the final round of the championship. The biker finished 10th overall in his debut appearance in the championship. “This season has been incredible, it was not all filled with mechanical problems or crashes. I won the opening round of the world championship, which has never been done by a Motswana or anyone in Southern Africa. I am super excited because I learnt a lot.
I have had some bad luck this year but more good luck, more ups than downs. I have had the speed all season to get in front of the field, which means a lot for me, it means a lot for my confidence going into the Dakar 2022. "We have odd mechanical failures. I have had one crash this year, which is part of racing. It is really difficult to minimise those because it is out of your control, you know the speed they race in at Dakar is so high and so fast and it is difficult to avoid the crashes. So we can do everything we have to.
We have done a lot this year; we have worked on the engine and its reliability,” Branch said. The man dubbed the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ has acclaimed himself as one the fastest riders at the event. He will line up against former Dakar winners including Australian Toby Price, Sam Sunderland of Great Britain and reigning champion, Kevin Benavides of Argentina.