Gaborone — Sensational local biker, Ross Branch says his experiences and exploits at the world's toughest off-road challenge, the Dakar Rally, should inspire a lot of talent in Botswana.
Speaking Sunday 19 (yesterday) in an interview upon arrival from Saudi Arabia where the race was hosted, Branch said Botswana was such a small country but with an amazing talent.
"I hope to have inspired other riders here to go and take part, which is definitely possible, Botswana is a small country but there is so much talent and that means a lot to me, this flag is definitely in my heart," he added.
The 33-years-old rider had mixed fortunes at the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia race during the entire physically taxing 11 stages rally and ended 21st overall.
American rider, Ricky Brabec was crowned the overall winner of the race that required 12 days of negotiating over 8 000-km course that began at the Red Sea and looped eastward toward the Persian Gulf.
Pablo Quintanilla of Chile became the runner up while Australian Toby Price came on third and another Chilean Jose Florimo closed the top four bracket.
"The race was the hardest thing I ever had to do and we went through some really good times and bad times. Everyone was behind me through all these times and we were able to win a stage, which was unbelievable and that put our country flag up there," said a jovial Branch.
Branch rode his 450cc KTM motorcycle to a resounding victory on day two of the race and made a statement to his world class competitors amongst them 2020 champion Brabec, Price, Briton Sam Sunderland and Argentine Kevin Benavides.
According to Branch, there was a couple of times during the competition that he wanted to give up but was kept afloat by the support back home.
"It was even unbelievable to get a message of support from President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi after winning stage two, the support was amazing and had me in tears," he said.
Branch said a dark cloud hung in the motorcycling fraternity after the tragic death of his close friend the Portuguese legendary rider, Paulo Gonçalves.
Gonçalves passed away from a fall sustained 276 kilometres into stage seven. The 40-year-old Gonçalves was taking part in his 13th Dakar race. He was sitting in 46th place overall after stage 6 of the rally.
"I spoke to him on the morning of the accident and he told me Ross, whatever you do just go for it. His words meant a lot to me. He was a real legend, he died doing what he loved most," he said.
Source : BOPA