Dakar 2023 | Ross Branch wins Stage 8 for Hero Motorsports, Loeb wins ahead of Al Attiyah in cars
Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally was a special stage covering a smaller distance than usual, with 367km covered. However, it was still rife with excitement.
In the cars category, Sebastian Loeb in his BRX buggy inherited the stage win after Carlos Sainz's Audi was given a five-second time penalty, dropping him to third. This promoted Nasser Al Attiyah to second, who continues to lead the overall rally ahead of his Toyota teammates. This is also a comeback drive for Loeb, who at one point was as low as 54th in the overall rankings, and now stand fourth.
In bikes, there was fantastic news for Indian motorsport fans as Hero Motorsport's Ross Branch won stage 8 with a stunning ride through the desert, finishing ahead of Daniel Sanders in the GasGas and Mason Klein in his KTM. However, nothing could touch Ross Branch as he found a special rhythm through the desert that enabled him to gap his competitors by more than 3 minutes. There was drama as Mason Klein was given a late penalty which affected his overall ranking, so he remains in second behind Skyler Howes. However, the race is super tense as Klein and Benavides are tied behind Howes with just 1m and 13s between them.
Although nothing can top a stage victory for Ross Branch, it was a good day for the other Hero Motorsport riders too. Sebastian Buhler also finished in the top 10, with a P7 finish, which Franco Caimi finished in P18. While this does not affect their overall ranking except for Ross Branch's jump to P35, it does bode well for Hero's future performance in the rally. The Stage win has shown that the Hero 450 Rally has the performance and ability to take wins and can hang up there with the best of them. In a category as close as this year's, there should be more than enough hope for fans out there. We can't wait!