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What Dakar Day 2 Report
Where Al Henakiyah, Saudi Arabia
When Saturday 06 January 2024
Community International

Branch wins, Cox fourth, but Docherty crashes out of lead

Dakar 2024’s first bike stage proved a bittersweet one for Southern African riders. Despite stopping to help a fallen rival, Botswana hero Ross Branch rode his Hero home to a compelling victory to take the overall lead, while Bradley Cox starred to bring his BAS KTM home fourth and first among the R2 class privateers. It was a however disastrous day for his teammate Michael Docherty, who crashed out of the race lead late in the day.

Botswana hero Branch opted to start 18th on the 414 km race through the Saudi Arabian Desert to Al Henakiyah on Saturday. That decision appeared for good reason, as he arrived at the first checkpoint in the race lead. It was short lived though, as South African 2023 Dakar rookie winner Michael Docherty, who started 40th on his privateer BAS KTM, soon eclipsed Branch to lead the way.

Branch was soon back in control at the second checkpoint and the Southern African duo controlled the pace up front until Branch stopped to assist Spanish Honda rider Tosha Schareina, who had fallen and hurt his arm. That left Docherty leading Honda duo, Californian Ricky Brabec and Chilean Pablo Quintanilla, Spaniard Lorenzo Santolino’s Sherco, Argentine Kevin Benavides’ KTM and Cox.

Docherty’s leading chase however came to a disastrous end when he crashed and was airlifted to hospital with a hip injury. Branch provisionally rode home 15th, 16 minutes off the lead, but he was later credited time for his compassionate stop. The upshot of which saw multiple former South African champion Ross take the day with a commanding eleven minute win from Brabec, Klein, Cox, Flormino, Husqvarna privateer Romani Dumontier and Santolino. Saturday’s victory is 2019 rookie winner Ross Branch’s fourth Dakar stage win.

Kevin Benavides ended seventh from Aussie GasGas rider Daniel Sanders, Czech KTM privateer Michel Michek and Quintanilla’s Honda, on a day when many of Dakar’s regular superstars ended up outside of the top ten. Portuguese Hero rider Joaquim Rodrigues sadly joined Docherty and Schareina in retirement after crashing early on the stage.

While Ross Branch was imperious throughout, fellow reigning South African champion Bradley Cox rode a steady race on the fringes of the top ten for most of the morning, before upping the pace to come home fourth and first of the R2 privateers in a stellar ride of his own. Of the other Southern Africans, 2023 Malle Moto winner Charan Moore sat 35th on his Husqvarna with Zimbabwean Ashley Thixton’s similar machine 44th at the time of writing.

Friday’s Prologue sensation, rookie Kerim Fitz-Gerald KTM was hit with a penalty and started 127th rather than 12th. He was quickly on the pace to rise to 23rd in the early running, before slipping back down the field.. Ronald Venter similarly suffered a penalty on the first day and he started 128th aboard his KTM before rising through the field to 66th by mid distance, while Stuart Gregory sat 82nd at the time of writing on his Malle Moto KTM.

Dakar continues with a 662 km run to Al Duwadimi on Sunday.

Issued on behalf of Dakar 2024 Bikes Daily

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