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Dakar Rally: Hero MotoSports scripts history, becomes first Indian team to finish on podium

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Rider Ross Branch (c) with the team celebrating the podium finish

Rider Ross Branch (c) with the team celebrating the podium finish

Yanbu (Saudi Arabia): Hero MotoSports Team Rally on Friday created history by becoming the first-ever Indian manufacturer to finish on the podium in the prestigious Dakar Rally.

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It was a double delight for the Indian motorsports community as Sherco TVS Rally Factory rider Harith Noha secured the numero position in the overall ranking for Rally 2, also a first for India.

Hero MotoSports rider Ross Branch finished the Rally in second place for the team. His consistent performance over the 12 stages saw him at the first and second spots in the overall rankings throughout the Rally.

Branch completed the 12th and final stage (175 Km) of Rally in ninth position with a timing of one hour 52 minutes and 42 seconds. With this timing, he remained second in the overall ranking after Ricky Brabec of the Honda team.

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Brabec, who won in 2020, took 51 hours 30 minutes and 8 seconds to complete the Rally this time.

Branch was 10 minutes and 53 seconds behind him in the overall ranking.

After achieving the best result of his Dakar Rally career, Branch said that to be on the podium is a dream come true for him.

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"It's a dream come true to be on the podium. Nowadays it's a big thing to finish in the top three in any rally race, and if it happens in Dakar, it's an even bigger success," Branch told PTI.

"I'm really over the moon to achieve this goal for Hero. And a big thank you to the team for developing a highly competitive machine, for the sleepless three weeks here, and for everything they've sacrificed to reach this point." Noha finished fifth in the last stage of Rally 2 and 11th in the overall bike race (combining Rally GP and Rally 2). He also finished the overall bike class race in 11th position.

After finishing the race, Noah said, "It is great to finish top in Rally 2, but I am more happy to be 11th overall on the bike ranking." He said that he will celebrate this success with his family.

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Noah said, "After celebrating here today, I will go back to India tomorrow and share this happiness with my family." For the Indian manufacturer Hero, this is a phenomenal achievement as the growth curve for the team has also been steep in the last few years - raking up a first-stage win at Dakar in 2022, doubling it to two stage wins in 2023, and eventually finishing on the podium in this edition.

The team achieved two stage wins during this edition.

Executive chairman of Hero MotoCorp, Pawan Munjal, said, "Today marks a historic day, not only for Hero MotoCorp but also for India and its sports. Congratulations to Ross and the entire Hero MotoSports team, showcasing that success is a result of dedication, consistency, and unwavering passion." He hoped this would inspire aspiring riders to do well in future.

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"While Hero MotoCorp has supported sports and athletes for decades, this achievement by our own team holds a unique significance coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Hero Motocorp." Hero MotoSports Team Rally was formed in 2016 and participated in its first Dakar Rally in 2017.

Over the years, the team has achieved multiple podiums, wins and stage wins at top rally raids across the world.

This edition of the Rally was extremely gruelling and saw three of the four Hero riders drop out of the race during the first week - Joaquim Rodrigues and Sebastian Buhler suffered injuries, while Joan Barreda who displayed a fantastic performance in the first week, exited due to an unfortunate mechanical failure in Stage 6.

The pressure on Ross Branch to continue in the race and continue in the top order was tremendous. However, the Botswanan made it look easy - conquering every mile with a broad smile.

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