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2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Hero in top 5; Raorane returns to international rallying

Indian privateer Ashish Raorane also returned to international competition, finishing 11th in the Rally 2 class.

Indian team Hero MotoSports registered a strong finish in the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with Ross Branch finishing fifth overall in the Rally GP class.

Following Dakar 2023, the event served as Round 2 of the World Rally-Raid Championship. It also saw Indian privateer Ashish Raorane return to international competition after two years. He finished 11th overall in the Rally 2 class.

  • Branch finishes fifth for Hero MotoSports
  • Buhler out after mechanical issues
  • Raorane 11th in Rally 2 class

Ross Branch secures two stage podiums for Hero MotoSports

Hero MotoSports entered two riders in this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Ross Branch and Sebastien Buhler. However, Buhler had to retire after a mechanical issue in the first stage itself.

“The first stage was going very well for me, and I was enjoying a lot on my bike. At around 100 kms I had a mechanical problem, and had to wait a lot of time for the assistance to arrive and take the bike out,” Buhler said. As per the new rules, Rally GP riders are not allowed to restart the race. So that was the end of Buhler’s run.

Ross Branch had a much more positive stage, setting the third fastest time of the day. In fact, he handed Hero two stage podiums, having finished third in Stage 4 as well. After five stages and over 17 hours of riding across the desert, Branch finished fifth overall with a time of 17 hours 19.56 mins – a little over 6 mins off rally winner Adrien Van Beveren (Honda).

“It’s been a fantastic ride at Abu Dhabi 2023. I am super happy with the result, even though I would have loved to be on the podium. We took a lot of good steps in the right direction this week with myself and the bike, and I am really happy about that,” Branch said.

“Last year, [Joaquim Rodrigues] missed the podium by 6 minutes, and today, Ross missed his podium by just 1 minute. It just goes on to say how competitive Rally GP has become, but I’m also proud that with each race, our performance has grown by leaps and bounds,” Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally added.

The team’s next outing will be the Sonora Rally in Mexico in April 2023. In the meantime, the riders will focus on training and testing to be in best shape for their return to Latin American terrain after a lengthy gap.

Raorane 11th in Rally 2 class

One of India’s most prominent privateer riders, Ashish Raorane, returned to international competition after two years in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

He braved a series of mechanical and physical setbacks – including rupturing his bicep after a fall in Stage 3 – to successfully make it to the finish line. He finished 11th overall in the Rally 2 class.

Also see:

Feature: Behind the scenes of Audi’s Dakar 2023 charge

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