Hero MotoSports had a stellar line-up for the 2024 edition of the gruelling Dakar Rally with some big names such as 30-time Dakar stage winner Joan Barreda Bort, followed by Joaquim Rodrigues known as “J-Rod”, Sebastian Buhler and finally the 2019 Dakar’s Best Rookie—Ross Branch. The riders all took part in the 7000+ km race across the desert on the Hero 450 Rally bike over the course of 14 days.
The race started with the 157 km long prologue where Branch finished with the third fastest time in the Rally GP class. The next day was even better with the Botswanan rider setting the fastest time and winning stage one while moving into the overall lead of the race. Although this stage saw J-Rod crashing out of the race, leaving the Indian team with only three riders for the remaining of the race.
Ross Branch continued to hold on to his lead on stage two with Sebastian Buhler finishing fourth, the highest for Hero on that day. Unfortunately, the next day, on stage three of the race, Buhler crashed out, reducing the Indian squad by half. Next day, on the 632-kilometre long stage four, Ross Branch crashed twice but still managed to finish just outside of the podium. He slipped to second place on the general classification but soon climbed back to the top the next day.
Stage six was a 48-hour chrono stage where Ross Branch was the sole finisher for Hero MotoSports Team Rally as Buhler had to withdraw from the Dakar following a mechanical failure. Branch also moved down to second place in the classification and trailed the leader Ricky Brabec of Monster Energy Honda Team by just 51 seconds. Following that on stage seven, the longest one of this year at 873 kilometres, Branch closed the gap and sat just one second behind the leader Brabec.
Stages eight, nine and ten saw Branch finishing at eighth, fifth, and seventh, respectively while maintaining his second place overall. Ricky Brabec, meanwhile, increased his lead as the stages progressed.
Hero MotoSports took their second stage win at the 2024 Dakar on stage 11 with 37-year old Ross Branch soaring across competitors while also maintaining his second-place overall. On the finale, stage 12, Branch finished in sixth place and sealed the second place overall.
Hero MotoSports Team Rally created history on 18 January 2024 by becoming the first-ever Indian team to finish the grueling Dakar Rally in second place in the general classification. Ross Branch’s consistent ride throughout the race contributed to this.