AL'ULA, SAUDI ARABIA - Most people never knew who Ross Branch was before Monday afternoon, but that all changed when Botswana’s multiple South African cross country champion rode his KTM to a shock Dakar Saudi Arabia second day victory. Branch’s glory was short lived as the Kalahari Ferrari took a tumble, separating his shoulder, severing the tip of a finger and damaging his KTM enough to destroy its navigation tower, among the damage.
Undeterred, Ross got up with the help of rival Pablo Quintanilla who stopped to help, dusted himself off and rode his buckled machine the 350km home to the finish. Most would have written Branch off by then, but he’s a tough cookie and lined up 46th on Wednesday morning, claiming that he would 'ease into it'. Branch was however 26th by the first waypoint, 21st at the second, 14th and then seventh at the final timing point, before storming into the finish in an incredible third in what can only be described as a superhuman effort.
Multiple Bike Leaders
Privateer racer Branch was 1 minute and 6 seconds off provisional winner of the day, factory KTM rider Sam Sunderland and works Honda duo, Chilean Jose Ignacio Conrejo Flormino and Argentinian Kevin Benavides, but Sunderland was docked 5 minutes for speeding, which promoted those three, as well as Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves (Hero), Californian Ricky Brabec (Honda) and 2019 winner, Aussie Toby Price up one position each.
Sunderland, Price, Brabec and Benavides all took chances to lead the way. Overall, Brabec leads Benavides and Florimo in a Honda bike 1-2-3 ahead of KTM men Price and Sunderland and Chilean Quintanilla (Husqvarna), while Branch moved up a few places to 18th.