Branch loses out on world title

Ross Branch 2
Ross Branch 2

Ross Branch has lost out on the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship title after a poor performance at the just-ended Rallye du Maroc (Rally of Morocco).

Branch finished 25th at the Zagora-held race which was the fourth of the five rounds of the series. The 35-year-old had a blistering start to his debut World Championship appearance. He won the first round, the Kazakhstan Rally, in June. The round win gave him a five-point lead on the log standings as he sat on 25 points going into the second round.

In round two, Branch had a race to forget at the Silk Way Rally held in Russia. The rider's grip at the top of the standings loosened as he dropped out of round two after his motorcycle broke down just 49km into stage three of the Silk Way Rally. The sorry showing in Russia dented Branch's title chances.

The Kalahari Ferrari remained on 25 points after the Russia misfortune and dropped to seventh place in the overall championship standings. He was to save his championship at the Rally dos Sertões in Brazil in August but failed to make the trip. Ahead of the week's race, Branch was hoping for a better finish to close the gap with the leading pack. He, however, did not have a good start, after navigation problems saw him finish 26th on stage one of the Rallye du Maroc on Saturday.

Branch staged a fightback in the second stage to finish seventh but slipped in stage three. On the last day of the five-day rally, he rode home to finish in the overall position of 25th. The rider's finish means he sits on 25 points after four rounds as Austrian Matthias Walkner was confirmed the championship winner with a round to go. Walkner travelled to Morocco with a 20-point lead in the World Championship standings. The KTM rider finished second in the general standings of the Rallye du Maroc and it was enough for him to land his second FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.

The World Championship will conclude in the United Arab Emirates for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge from November 6-12, before the riders head back to Saudi Arabia for the 2022 Dakar Rally.

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