His nickname, the “Kalahari Ferrari” says it all, Ross Branch is a reference both in motocross and cross-country. He’s claimed all the possible continental titles in both disciplines. In 2019, it was time for the big leap up to the Dakar. And the rider from Botswana made the best of this first experience. His goal was to reach the Top 20. He did better than that by finishing best rookie of the event reaching the final podium in an outstanding 13th position. This airline pilot who flies all week and races on weekends knows how difficult it is to just have the opportunity to do the Dakar and then to perform on it. His dream now is to carry on improving and maybe find a spot in a factory team. In the meantime and for his second Dakar, he will again be part of the Bas Dakar team riding a brand new KTM. Delighted to discover Saudi Arabia, he knows the unknown plays in his favour.
“My first memory of the Dakar goes back to 1992 when I went to see the rally that was finishing in Cape Town. I wanted to do it but motocross was my first love. I only started riding in cross-country later. It took a while to come. When I started, I knew I had one opportunity. I needed to finish and get a result. I knew it would be difficult to go back but thanks to my result, all my sponsors were 100% behind me again. That first Dakar was exactly what I expected. I lived a dream, face to face with the people I would watch on TV. Despite crashing and mechanical issues, I had fun every single day. Of course the result was a surprise. I was aiming at the Top 20 but finishing best rookie was a bonus. It’s become a drug. I now want to do better and hope to find a deal to do more rallies in the future and squeeze myself into a factory team. At least I’ve finished and the monkey’s off my back. To do better I need to be more consistent. I have the speed of the 10 best riders but whether I finish in the top 20 or top 15, I don’t know. I’ll have to play it by ear. Experience is the main thing and I learned so much being with the best riders at the Merzouga and Morocco rallies. My main struggle was being able to read the road book and go fast at the same time, so I trained hard in Botswana doing that. Going to Saudi Arabia is new and very exciting. The terrain looks amazing and it should be a really difficult Dakar. I know that plays in my favour.”