2024 Dakar Rally: Ross Branch takes the win for Hero MotoSports in Special Stage 1, Carlos Sainz returns to the podium as Marcelo Medeiros wins in Quads
The Dakar Rally 2024 commenced with its first special stage on January 6, marking the beginning of an exhilarating journey through the terrains of Saudi Arabia. The stage stretched between Al-Ula and Al Henakiyah covering 414km, showcasing a challenging course that tested the skills and resilience of the competitors across various categories.
The bike category of the Dakar Rally 2024 has already seen its share of drama and excitement in the first stage. Ross Branch, hailing from Botswana, showcased not only his racing prowess but also his sportsmanship in this challenging leg of the race. Branch halted his race to assist Tosha Schareina, winner of yesterday’s prologue after the Spaniard suffered a crash. Despite finishing sixteenth and 16 minutes and 10 seconds behind the provisional leader Ricky Brabec, Branch's act of assistance earned him a significant 25-minute deduction. As a result, he overtook Brabec to claim the top spot, leading by 10 minutes and 54 seconds, and furthering the gap to Mason Klein by 11 minutes and 19 seconds in the overall rankings.
Hero MotoSports Team Rally
Ross Branch won the stage, however, Joaquim Rodrigues, suffered a misfortune 82km into the special. He crashed and had to be airlifted to a hospital, leading to his withdrawal from the stage. Their teammates Joan Barreda Bort and Sebastian Buhler finished 13th and 19th respectively. Barreda called the stage “really demanding, really hard”.
Indians at Dakar
Despite suffering from a headache and cramps during the stage, Harith Noah finished 21st improving his overall ranking from yesterday’s 29th. Ashish Raorane, unfortunately, had a crash which fractured his collarbone. He continued and finished the stage but can not continue ahead and has retired from the 2024 Dakar.
Marcelo Medeiros emerged victorious in the Quads category, claiming his ninth career Dakar stage win. The Brazilian showcased his expertise, finishing ahead of Juraj Varga by a margin of 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Laisvydas Kancius secured the final podium spot, edging out Manuel Andújar with a lead of over 10 minutes.
Due to a technical fault, the cars started late in stage 1. Seeing how this would affect the trucks and would lead them to spend the night driving in the desert, race control reduced the distance by half. Janus Van Kasteren displayed dominance, securing his second stage consecutive win after yesterday’s prologue. The Dutchman's exceptional performance marked him as a force to reckon with, as he crossed the finish line with the fastest time.
This stage, with its tough and unpredictable terrain around volcanic areas, has already begun to shape the competition, highlighting both the physical and mental demands of the Dakar Rally. It sets a precedent for what is expected to be an extremely challenging and eventful race in the days to come.