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Driving the dream

Driving the dream
DEFEATING THE DUST: Ross Branch

Botswana biking legend set to star on the world stage

If 2020 was a year most will want to forget, by mid-January of the new year we might all have something to celebrate – even if you know nothing about motorbikes.

The world-renowned Dakar Rally takes place in Saudi Arabia from 5-15 January, and there is every chance local motorsport sensation, Ross Branch will emerge from the desert dust as the champion.

The Jwaneng born 34-year-old is returning to the Middle East for another crack at winning the prestigious event – described as the toughest motorcycle race on the planet.

In his first attempt in 2019 in Peru, he was the winner in the Rookie category, finishing in 13th place overall.

“I lived the dream, coming face to face with the people I would watch on TV,” he said back then

Last January in Saudi he again made sporting history when he became the first rider from Botswana to win a stage of the rally. But 88 kilometers into the race he hit a rock and crashed, busting his shoulder and damaging his bike. Both were patched up, and despite the pain and having to follow in the dust of the other bikers, Ross still managed to finish the race.

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This time out he feels that the experience and the preparation he has put in, will give him an edge over the other 108 bikes vying for the crown.

“Winning a stage at the Dakar Rally was really important to me as I believe I am getting there slowly and hopefully I will get a top 10 finish in the upcoming race. I have long begun my preparations. I’m training hard and I managed to do a couple of races here in Botswana. I strongly believe I will do well this time around because I have the speed to do it. I had a little bit of bad luck in the previous race which I’m basically working on at the moment,” he told Voice Sport.

He explained, “I think my navigation aspect has to improve in the upcoming race as it gave me problems in the previous race, and obviously I was racing with seasoned guys who maximised on that situation I encountered.”

Ross, who has been riding motorbikes since he was five, was inspired to follow his dream when his dad took him to South Africa at the age of six to see the end of the 1996 rally which finished in Cape Town that year.

“That’s when I knew I wanted to one day compete in the Dakar Rally. It all started at a very young age. My father had a bike and we made a family event and raced just for fun but I fell in love with the sport and my father ensured that I got to where I am at the moment with all the support I needed to succeed. I will forever be thankful to him,” he said.

Ross also paid tribute to his mum, who he described as his biggest inspiration.

In a recent interview with SA Dakar Group, he said, “My mom will always be my greatest inspiration.

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“In 2013 we lost her to cancer, and it was really difficult to continue racing as she had always played such an important role in my racing career. But I knew that she shared my goals and inspired me to never give up on my dreams and to keep fighting until the very end and so I continue to fight harder to achieve our shared goals for both of us.”

Ross has recently changed manufacturers from KTM to Yamaha, and having the benefit of the Yamaha Monster Energy Factory Team behind him, will give him that extra edge.

He has been an inspiration to the local biking fraternity and believes that the country will see others riding to prominence on the world stage.

“I believe we will start seeing more of them coming to the Dakar Rally and that will definitely raise our flag high and increase the standard of motorsport in the country,” he said.

Having won the Botswana 1000 Desert Race a legendary seven times, Ross has been given the nickname, ‘The Kalahari Ferrari.’ In just over 30 days’ time, the man from Botswana might just launch his legendary status in the world.
What a way to start in 2021! We wish him well.

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