2024 Dakar Rally Stage 6 ends – Hero’s Ross Branch finishes 5th, 2nd overall

Branch drops to 2nd overall but is only 51 seconds behind Honda’s Ricky Brabec with 6 stages still to go, Joan Barreda Bort out of the rally with mechanical failure
Ross Branch is now 2nd behind the overall leader by just 51 seconds
Ross Branch is now 2nd behind the overall leader by just 51 secondsPAVOL TOMASKIN

The 48-hour chrono stage of the 2024 Dakar rally has ended. The rally took place in the city of Shubaytah over two days with a night halt in between. Riders were expected to cover 625km (a separate 547km route for cars), and 7 bivouacs were set up in different places mid-stage. At the end of proceedings at 4pm local time, riders were expected to return to the bivouacs closest to them and were allowed no assistance from their teams for the duration of the night halt.

In Stage 5, Hero’s Branch finished in 6th and 1st overall, with teammate Joan Barreda Bort down in 26th and 12th overall. But since the Rally GP grid was reversed for this stage, Joan started first. A notable challenge throughout the stage was fuel management on soft dunes, with fuel consumption more than expected. It meant that it was impossible to floor the throttle through the whole stage.

By the end of the first day, Ross Branch had dropped down to 2nd overall with a gap of 2 minutes and 48 seconds between himself and overall leader Ricky Brabec of Monster Energy Honda. On the other hand, his teammate Joan Barreda Bort made up several places, climbing to 10th in the stage as well as overall rankings.

On the second day, however, things were drastically different. Branch made up time and whittled the gap between him and Brabec down to just 51 seconds. But Joan, 96km before the end of the stage on Day 2 (January 12), suffered a mechanical failure that forced him to withdraw from the race. Ross Branch said after finishing the stage, “It was a super long stage but we're here in one piece, the bikes are amazing and doing a good job.” January 13 will be a rest day, after which competitors will be back to business as usual.

Three Hero MotoSport riders have been forced to withdraw from the race, and that leaves Ross Branch as Hero MotoSport’s only horse in the race. Branch has shown remarkable progress on the tail end of the stage, closing the gap to first place to only 51 seconds. With six stages still to go, Branch may yet close the gap to reclaim the overall 1st place that he lost in stage 6.

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