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Aaron Mare Wins Abu Dahbi Stage 4 Via Incredible Teamwork

Published On:: 01/03/2024

With Branch starting 1st and leading Stage 4, an apparent navigational “blunder” sent the rest of the field off course after Branch – except Mare (who knew better)!

Some crafty penultimate Stage 4 teamwork between Monster Energy/Hero Motosports’ Ross Branch and Aaron Mare led to another stage victory for Mare, the overall points (time) leader at Round 2 of the 2024 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship – the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

The teamwork in question came when Branch, who won the ADDC’s Stage 3, started as the first bike out on Friday morning and took the stage lead late into the race. But when it looked like Branch had it won, he inexplicably veered his Hero 450 Rally bike off course - and led several of the other top racers in the standings off course as well in pursuit of him - in what looked to be a major navigational blunder.

However, Branch knew exactly what he was doing. And so did Mare, as his fellow South African buddy remained on course, took over the lead, and won the stage – increasing his overall lead time to 10:14 over 2nd place Konrad Dabrowski (Duust Rally) with one stage remining in the race.

“Today was an interesting one for me,” began Branch with a laugh. “I got to the start line and I knew I had to catch up 20 minutes. And opening the stage, and trying to catch back up 20 minutes, is almost impossible these days. So I had to try a different strategy, and obviously my teammate had to catch up from 4th place (in Stage 4 at the time), so yeah, I ended up taking the guys on a bit of a wild goose chase.”

Branch said he saw the perfect opportunity for the strategic team move at kilometer 90, and that’s where he made his move.

“I saw the note (route reading on his bike’s navigational device) at 90 (km), and the next one was at 103 (km),” explained Branch. “So I knew that I could take them off the track a little bit.”

Branch continued: “I knew one of two things could have happened here. They could have gotten lost, completely, and then I could have been able to gain the time back and move up in the overall ranking. The second thing was that they would follow my lines and my teammate (Mare) would have been able to catch up because he knew that we were going off track.

“So it kind of worked. Not as much as I would have liked in my favor, but for the team it worked well. I’m here to be a team player and, yeah, it helped Aaron with the overall lead. And now we just have to bring it home tomorrow.”



Said Mare: “Yeah, I just took it pretty easy today. I picked up some wire in the rear wheel, and I could smell it the whole day. I had to eventually stop and get that out. And then I pushed a little bit, for maybe 20 k’s before refuel. I was about a minute behind, so I cruised from there and caught up to the lead group and tried to keep the bike in the best possible condition for tomorrow so we can bring home the victory for Hero Motosports and Monster Energy.”


  • “Today I learned a lot,” said Branch. “It was quite fun learning how to play the game and to be in a position where I could dictate the race a little bit. And that was important for us for sure.”
  • Should Mare be able to accomplish his goal tomorrow, the overall motorcycle division victory would be the first ever in FIM World Rally-Raid Championship history for the Monster Energy/Hero Motosports program, as well as the first for an India-based motorcycle manufacturer.
  • Said Mare, who lives in Abu Dhabi, on leading the ADDC heading into the final stage: “Yeah, it’s a super special race for me. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was the first ever rally I did back in 2019 and to win this event would be a dream come true.”
  • The Stage 4 win for Mare was his second of the ADDC, also winning Stage 2, and extended is overall time lead to 10:14 over Dabrowski, 22:05 over 3rd place Jean-Loup Lepan (Duust Rally) and 47:55 over 4th place Branch.
  • Stage 5 will see Mare open the stage, to which he added: “I can’t believe I’m actually in the position to get this one. Looking forward to opening the stage tomorrow and hopefully I can navigate well, with no mistakes, and bring it home.”
  • Despite being well back in 4th place, Branch, should he finish the final ADDC Stage 5 cleanly, will take control of the overall WR2C season points chase. Branch placed 2nd at Dakar and none of the other factory teams (Monster Energy/Honda, KTM or Husqvarna) competed at the ADDC this week.


Abu Dhabi Stage 4 Motorcycle Results 
1st – Aaron Mare (Hero/Monster Energy)3:21:41
4th – Ross Branch (Hero/Monster Energy)3:29:12


Monster Energy Motorcycle Standings @ Abu Dhabi (after Stage 4) 
1st – Aaron Mare (Hero/Monster Energy)13:55:15
4th – Ross Branch (Hero/Monster Energy)14:43:10 (+ plus 15:00 for motor swap)


Up next… Abu Dhabi’s Desert Challenge’s 5th and final stage is set for Saturday with a 206 km Special (164 km Liaison) run from Mezaira’a to Abu Dhabi, with a start in Hameem. A relatively safe course is set through the dunes by FIM race officials to ensure everyone makes it back to the Abu Dhabi’s finish ramp. For more information on the Monster Energy/Hero Motosports race effort at Abu Dhabi, including ‘Live’ results tracking, link to