2024 Dakar Rally Stage 9: Hero MotoSports‘ Branch finishes 5th in stage
Stage 9 of the 2024 Dakar Rally was made up of a 417km special stage and a 222km liaison from Hail to Al Ula has ended. After the contrasting sandy and rocky terrain of Stage 8 challenging riders to preserve their tyres, Stage 9 was a whole different ball game. Here, riders were tasked with maintaining precise navigation by guessing where the tyre tracks went instead of just following them visually. The rocky terrain of Stage 9 would also demand the riders to deploy all their technical skills to find the right pace.
Hero MotoSports’ Ross Branch finished Stage 8 in 8th place. Today in Stage 9, he managed to finish in 5th, trailing the stage leader by 6 minutes and 59 seconds. As for the overall standings, Branch and Hero remain in 2nd place overall. Unfortunately, the former 42 second gap between Branch and Ricky Brabec of Monster Energy Honda has now widened to 7 minutes and 9 seconds, losing time in the dunes and camel grass.
A tenacious Ross Branch said at the end of Stage 9, “It was a long one today, I wasn’t fast enough from the get-go. I made a couple of mistakes in the camel grass this morning, couldn’t get up one or two more dunes and lost a lot of time but I’m here in one piece. It was a rough day and Ricky’s got a bit of a lead on us now but it’s not the end of the rally. We’re here in one piece, the bike’s good, I’m good, so we’re still in the fight and tomorrow we’re going to have to put the hammer down.”
Stage 10 of the 2024 Dakar Rally will cover 317km within Al Ula itself. The 7 minutes and 9 seconds gap is not an insurmountable challenge, and Hero MotoSports and Ross Branch will be looking to snatch 1st place overall come January 17. 3 stages of the Dakar Rally remain, and the race isn’t over yet.