SA champ Ross Branch heads to the Dakar

Ross Branch head to Dakar Rally

Story & pics:
At the 2019 Dakar Rally, there is a name that might stand out from the others – Ross Branch, the rider fondly known as the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’.

His dream of conquering the iconic event has been brewing since he was five years old, when he was left awe-struck after catching a glimpse of Dakar riders making their way from Paris to Cape Town.

He has since gone on to achieve three National Cross Country Championships, and finally feels that he has ‘enough experience, focus and maturity to give an opportunity of this magnitude his very best shot.’

With only weeks to the start of what will be the biggest challenge of his career, we catch up with Branch about his road to the 2019 Dakar Rally.

Ross Branch head to Dakar Rally stance

What still needs to be done before you gear up and head to Peru?
I can’t begin to explain how excited I am for this race, everything is in place and all my gear is sorted! A HUGE thank you to TRP for all the support. There are still a few expenses that haven’t been covered yet. Fortunately we still have a few weeks to try and raise some more money so we will be campaigning right until the start to raise the last bit.

Tell us about some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome training for the Dakar
I had a big crash at the Cape Town MX Nationals earlier this year and broke my ankle. I had to finish the season with the injury but we are 100% healed up now and ready to take on one of the biggest challenges of my life. I have trained really hard and done a huge amount of riding so I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

What has your mental preparation for the race looked like?
Mentally I’m really strong. I know I might only have one shot at this event and I have to give it my all, so that’s what I’m going there to do.

What training techniques have you used to simulate the conditions, terrain and navigational aspects of the Dakar?
I have ridden in pretty much almost every terrain available in Southern Africa in the past two months, from the Drakensberg mountains to the dunes of Namibia. I have made over 5 thousand kilometres of road books to hone in my navigational skills so I hope that will help me.

What is your long-term Dakar dream?
Doing the Dakar next year is a dream come true! I watched the Dakar when it came to Cape Town in 1992 and I have wanted to do it ever since. I would like to continue rally racing, but as you know it’s really expensive. I need to do well enough to get some more financial support, and then hopefully that can lead to me competing in the Cross Country World Championships next year.

Do you think that your inexperience in the Dakar will count against you? Or do you think that it could potentially work to your advantage as you don’t fear what may lie ahead?
Having no experience at Dakar will definitely count against me. I just have to learn and adapt as quickly as I can and try to limit any mistakes. I think what counts in my favour is that my only expectation of the race is to go there and ride my KTM as fast as I possibly can!