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Ross Branch - To The Top Of The World

Published On:: 11/01/2023

From Botswana to the top of the world is a long way, and it took Ross Branch a long time to finally make his debut on the Dakar Rally and show the world what he was capable of.

From Botswana to the top of the world is a long way, and it took Ross Branch a long time to finally make his debut on the Dakar Rally and show the world what he was capable of.  

Bursting onto the scene as the fastest rookie in 2019, Ross captured immediately the hearts of Southern African Dakar fans and off-road enthusiasts in general, because it is impossible not to connect with him. Ross’s smile is contagious. 

“Never give up”, is his mantra. Often, it’s easier said than done, but for the Monster Energy athlete it’s a truth. Ross has had to overcome terrible setbacks, huge crashes and plenty of hurdles, but he always comes back with a smile. 

How tough it is for a talented off-road racer from the small African country of Botswana to join the Dakar, which is traditionally a Europe-dominated event.

“It was a nightmare to get here. For an off-road racer, the Dakar is the ultimate dream, and I wanted it really hard.  The first challenges were the budget and the lack of navigation training in South Africa as we race mainly Baja’s,” he said.

“At that time KTM South Africa helped me but at the condition that I won three national championships. I did it, and I made my debut in Peru in 2019. As for the budget, it cost me €200,000 to race in 2019 and 2020, just to prove to the world how competitive I was.”

Last year came another challenge, competing the Dakar Rally knowing that it would have been the last season with Yamaha as they were closing their racing program. It wasn’t going to stop Ross, though…

“Fortunately, we were informed before the Rally, so I was able to make an agreement with Hero Motorsport. It’s a great team, and it allowed me to race knowing that I had a seat for 2023 too, so it worked great.  I wanted to do well to thank Yamaha, but unfortunately I crashed on Stage 6 when I was 7th in the overall standings, which wasn’t the way I wanted to end the race.”

Looking at this year’s edition, it’s been a roller coaster for Ross and the team.

It’s been one of the toughest Dakar races in history so far, but he’s enjoyed the challenge.


He said: “It has been a very tough week, but I like the terrain: I good mix of everything. Sand, rocks, easy navigation, tricky navigation. A good cocktail!

“I also like Saudi Arabia. In a way we are out of our comfort zone here because the culture is so different to what we are used to. The food, the people, it’s very different We are all so friendly in South Africa, and here sometimes it’s difficult to understand the culture but I like it.

“In terms of results, we are not where we wanted to be after the rest day.  It's been a terrible week for us. We ran out of fuel in stages 3 and 4, which was completely unexpected and nobody's fault. We are using a new ride by wire throttle that we hadn’t test enough before the race because of a lack of time, and it consumed more fuel than we expected in the deep sand,” said Ross.

Despite the challenges, there was a big highlight just before rest day when Ross took an awesome stage victory, a huge deal for both himself and the team; “I needed to get back on top for myself and for the team. They've worked so hard. Stage 8 was almost perfect for me and we proved that we are fast, so it felt great.”

After all the trials and tribulations, has it ever crossed his mind to end the race early?

“Several moments this week. One day I hardly hit my face and then we had the fuel issues two days in a row, I just wanted to go home. Dakar is so ruthless because you only have one shot a year, but I’m happy I stayed and I didn’t give up.”

“Once again, I learned a lesson: we put our life on the line when we are racing here, but when I take off my helmet, I’m so grateful for what I’m doing and what I have. Dakar is my life”.