Branch’s title charge on temporary halt

On course: Branch will wait a little longer to return to action  PIC: YAMAHA RACING
On course: Branch will wait a little longer to return to action PIC: YAMAHA RACING

Local biker, Ross Branch has been forced to wait a little longer to resume his challenge for the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship title. This follows the cancellation of the Rally dos Sertões in Brazil, which was to be held from August 13-22, 2021, due to COVID-19.

It would have marked round three of the world championship. Branch had an exciting debut in the World Championship following a win in round one held in Kazakhstan, early June. In round two, the Silk Way Rally in Russia, the 34-year-old was forced to retire midway through the race after his bike broke down on stage three. Prior to the Silk Way Rally, Branch held a healthy five-point lead in the championship. He has since dropped down to sixth position with 25 points, miles behind the leader Matthias Walkner, who has 58 points. The Kalahari Ferrari will return to the wheel from October 7-13 at the Rallye du Maroc that will form the championship’s round three.

Speaking to Mmegi Sport, Branch admits he has a lot of catching up to do but said his main focus is to prepare for the 2022 Dakar Rally. “Yes, I have to catch up, but I think I can do it.

We are still training very hard and working towards the main goal, which is Dakar 2022,” he said. Meanwhile, Branch has had a double whammy after yet another event cancellation, with the 2021 Motocross of African Nations (MXoAN) the casualty. The event was to be held from August 6-8, but was cancelled due to uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, specifically in Uganda, the organisers said. Branch was expected to lead Team Botswana hunt for a first ever-continental title but those ambitions have been put on hold.

The MXoAN was cancelled for the second consecutive year and the Botswana Motor Sport (BMS) said it was disappointed by the decision but the livelihoods of the participants should be a priority. “It is a real blow to the spirits as opportunities to compete are far and few and international competitions such as MXoAN were to be used to measure the competitive readiness of riders against the region.

While disappointment is clear that we also need to be aware of the escalation of COVID-19 cases in the region coupled with the rise in variants and how fast they take hold, we have to agree that cancellation is justified particularly that our riders meanwhile take the needed precautions, as they are not vaccinated,” BMS public relations officer, Daryll Ellitson said.

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