Botswana's international motorcycle racing star, secures 4th place overall at 2023 World Rally Raid

Botswana's internationally renowned motorcycle racing sensation, Ross Branch, completed the 2023 Rally du Maroc in a commendable 4th position overall this past Wednesday.

This achievement solidified Branch's standing as he finished 4th overall in the 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship. The Rally, though filled with highs and lows, had a bittersweet ending for the Hero Motorsport rider, who kicked off the event by winning the opening stage.

Throughout the demanding 2,300-kilometer race in the rugged Moroccan desert, Branch displayed unwavering consistency and exceptional speed, ultimately falling just 30 seconds short of a podium finish. This outstanding performance has undoubtedly stoked the fires of anticipation for the 2024 Dakar Rally, scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia.

Branch's journey to this impressive 4th place finish was not without its challenges. He initially crossed the Stage 4 finish line in the 6th fastest time, a mere 3.5 minutes behind the stage winner. Notably, his teammate, Sebastian Buhler, closely followed in the 7th position. According to Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motorsport division of Hero MotoCorp, the world's largest motorcycle and scooter manufacturer, both riders achieved commendable finishes within the top 10 positions during the grueling Stage 4 of the Rallye Du Maroc 2023.

Stage 4 was touted as the most difficult segment of the rally, presenting a relentless mix of Morocco's diverse terrains, including stony tracks, rough wadis, fast and winding tracks, sandy pistes, off-pistes, stretches of dunes, and expansive camel grass. Competitors faced tests of speed, handling, navigation, and more over the course of the 343-kilometer special from Zagora to Merzouga. The scorching heat of the Sahara Desert added an extra layer of difficulty, although the stage also showcased the breathtaking beauty of Morocco's landscapes.

With an earlier stage win to his name, Ross Branch held the lead on the leaderboard for two days and maintained a strong 2nd overall position after the initial four stages of the rally, positioning him as a contender for the top prize on the race's final day. Despite completing nearly 2,000 kilometers of the grueling race, Branch trailed the rally leader by a mere 6 minutes.

According to Hero Motorsport, Branch and Buhler consistently delivered impressive results from the onset of the race, consistently securing top-10 finishes overall. However, they encountered some challenges on Stage 4. Ross, under immense pressure to secure an overall victory, lost valuable time due to minor errors in the dunes. Buhler also faced difficulties as he was caught behind another rider in a dust cloud, resulting in time loss. With only one stage remaining, Branch and Buhler found themselves in the 2nd and 8th positions overall in the rally.

As the Rally du Maroc neared its conclusion, competition among the top Rally GP class riders intensified, with a mere 10-minute gap separating the top five positions. The final and decisive stage, a short 152-kilometer special loop around the bivouac in Merzouga, promised an exciting conclusion to this year's event.

Reflecting on his campaign, Branch shared, "Stage 4 was not my best day – I struggled a lot. I couldn't find my rhythm or pace like the others, resulting in some lost time. However, it was a good stage overall. We managed to stay on the bike and, despite a couple of minor mistakes, we're still in the race. The bike is performing well, my health is intact, and the team's support has been phenomenal."

Ross Branch's remarkable performance at the 2023 Rally du Maroc leaves motorsport enthusiasts eager to witness his future endeavors, especially at the upcoming 2024 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.