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Ross Branch Wins the Prologue | Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

Published On:: 26/02/2024

The opening stage-setting Prologue race for Round 2 of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship series goes to Branch, teammate Aaron Mare placed 4th.

Following Monster Energy’s absolute domination of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship’s crown jewel event, the Dakar Rally where Monster Energy racers took the top five spots, the world’s premier off-road racing series got back underway with Round 2 on Monday – the 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (ADDC). And picking up right where he left off was Monster Energy’s Ross Branch (Hero Motosports), the runner-up at Dakar, with a victory in the opening Prologue stage of the ADDC.

“Prologue’s done here at the 2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and man, it was so much fun,” said Branch. “They (WRRC race officials) graded the whole track, so it was like wide open, flat track style. No navigation, but it was good fun. Good to get out and on the bike in the first race after Dakar.”

Branch recorded the short, 5K Special/14K Liaison, Prologue’s fastest time of the day, topping Tobias Ebster (SRG Motorsports by seven seconds and Monster Energy/Hero Motosports teammate, 4th place Aaron Mare, by eight seconds. Mare was added to the Monster Energy/Hero Motosports team to replace Sebastian Buhler, who is busy recovering from his injuries sustained in a crash at Dakar last month.

Heading into Abu Dhabi, Monster Energy controlled the top five overall WRRC positions in the standings with Monster Energy/Honda Team’s Ricky Brabec leading (38 points), followed by Branch (30), and a trio of Monster Energy/Honda Team racers rounding out the top five – Adrien Van Beveren (24), Jose Cornejo (20) and Pablo Quintanilla (17). But for the remainder of the 5-stage ADDC it will just be the Branch and the Hero Motosports team that’ll represent Monster Energy as Honda, prior to the start of the ’24 WRRC season, had made the decision to forgo the ADDC, opting instead to further the engineering on the Honda CRF450 Rally based off the data they received from this past January’s Dakar Rally.



Said Branch (regarding the lack of factory participation at Abu Dhabi): “Really disappointed that we don’t have other factory teams here (KTM & Husqvarna factory programs also opted out), but it is what it is and we’re (Monster Energy/Hero Motosports) ready to go. We’re here in full force, really enjoying it and really happy to be back on the bike and really looking forward to getting back into a tough week in the sand pits of Abu Dhabi and having some fun, doing the best that I can and keeping it on two wheels.”

Said Mare (on being added to the Monster Energy/Hero Motosports team for Abu Dhabi): “Looking forward to Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It’s going to be a great honor and really happy to be alongside fellow African Ross Branch. Stay tuned for the rest of the week. Hopefully looking forward to a good race and thanks to Waffi (Wolfgang Fischer, Hero manager) for this opportunity.”


  • With the Prologue win on Monday Branch was able to select the premier No. 10 starting spot for Tuesday’s Stage 1 run in the dunes around Al Dhannah. The course will run a total of 374 km with a 248 km Special (126 km Liaison) made up primarily of dunes. Branch will start right behind Docherty and Ebster.
  • Branch’s first stage win on the World Rally-Raid Championship tour came at Abu Dhabi back in 2022.
  • Prior to Branch’s first Rally GP Pro class win, in 2021, he clinched the Rally 2 championship, and placed 2nd in his first WR2C competition (Abu Dhabi).
  • In 2022 Mare replaced injured racer Franco Caimi on the Hero Motosports team at Dakar and placed 15th. Prior to that (2019) Mare had competed at his first Dakar with the Monster Energy/Honda Team.
  • Mare didn’t have to travel far to the Prologue start gate as he currently makes his home in Dubai, about an hour and 19 minutes from Abu Dhabi (both being part of the United Arab Emirates).
Abu Dhabi Prologue Motorcycle Results 
1st – Ross Branch (Hero/Monster Energy)3:04
4th – Aaron Mare (Hero/Monster Energy)3:12


Monster Energy Motorcycle Standings @ Abu Dhabi (after Prologue) 
1st – Ross Branch (Hero/Monster Energy)3:04
4th – Aaron Mare (Hero/Monster Energy)3:12 (+ plus 8 seconds)

Up next… Action gets back underway on Tuesday with Stage 1 of the ADDC, dubbed the “Ruler’s Representative Court in Al Dhafran Region, the 374 km (total, 248 km Special) starts and finishes in the dunes around Al Dhannah. For more information, including ‘Live’ results tracking, link to