Overall top-10 finish, two stage wins for Indian team at Dakar 2023

by IANS |

Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Jan 16 (IANS) Hero MotoSports Team Rally completed its Dakar 2023 campaign with a stellar result as three of its team riders crossed the final finish line, here.

The Indian manufacturer scripted history once again in this edition of the rally. With a top-10 overall finish, two stage wins, and a stage podium, this is the Team's best-ever performance at the Dakar, on Sunday.

Sebastian Buhler, the youngest team rider of the team finished the last special (Stage 14) of 138 km between Al Hofuf to Dammam with yet another top-10 finish, at the 6th place. His team mates Franco Caimi and Ross Branch finished just 4 minutes behind him, making it to the 13th and 14th positions in the RallyGP class.

For Ross Branch this was the first Dakar with Hero MotoSports. He suffered a crash earlier on in the race, and then, on a tough stage 4 he lost over 3 hours with an empty fuel tank owing to fuel injection issues. He knew his chances for a good overall top-result were over, but the undeterred athlete pushed hard and claimed two Stage wins in three days. With four top-5 and another three top-10 performances, Ross would have been a contender for the top prize, if not for his mishap in Stage 4. Ross finished Dakar 2023 securing a 16th overall position in the Rally GP class.

It was the first Dakar in Hero colors for Franco Caimi too, who had missed the last edition due to injury. Right from the start, the Argentine athlete showcased highly consistent performances finishing five times in the top-10. A crash towards the last days of the race caused constant pain in his leg, however, his hard work and perseverance paid off for him, as he finished with an excellent overall top-10 position, at the 10th place.

Sebastian Buhler, who returned to racing after almost a year of recovery from injury, delivered an excellent performance. In his 3rd Dakar with Hero MotoSports, the young German claimed his first ever Stage Podium, finishing 2nd in Stage 2. Buhler also lost a few hours in Stage 4 along with Ross due to loss of fuel. However, consistently improving his performance, he finished Dakar 2023 in the 14th overall position in the Rally GP class.

For Joaquim Rodrigues this season of the Dakar started well for him and he finished twice in the top-10. However, an unfortunate crash in Stage 4 resulted in a broken femur, and led to his early exit from the race. He is currently recovering after a successful surgery.

The team will next be seen in action at the second race of the World Rally Raid Championship (W2RC), at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in end February 2023.

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