|Posted on December 22, 2018 at 12:55 AM|
Southern Africa's two fastest Cross Country riders are about to take on the ultimate test of man and machine. KTM's Ross Branch and Husqvarna's Kenny Gilbert are counting down the final weeks to the 2019 Dakar Rally, which will take place from 6-17 January.
The iconic event will be hosted by only one country for the first time in its history, with both the start and finish in Lima, Peru. A gruelling 10 stages with only one rest day is in store of which 70% will comprise of sand and dunes.
This comes as good news for Branch, fondly known as the "Kalahari Ferrari", who is renowned for his refined sand skills.
After his third consecutive National Cross Country title in 2018, Branch has rallied up immense support as he prepares to fulfil what has been a lifelong dream.
"In the last two months I've ridden in pretty much all types of terrain from the Drakensberg mountains to the dunes of Namibia. I've also made over five thousand kilometres of road books to practice navigation. I finally feel like I have enough experience, maturity and focus to go to a stage race of this magnitude and give it my very best shot," said Branch.
It was a truly mouth-watering 2018 season for Gilbert too, who entered a head-to-head battle with Branch for the National Cross Country Championship where he narrowly finished in second place.
With a wealth of experience, Gilbert boasts five National Cross Country Championships of his own. He is also 13-time finisher of the Roof of Africa, which is described as the 'Mother of Hard Enduro'.
When asked about what sets him apart as a Rally rider, Gilbert commented:
"When times get tough, I know how to find an extra gear. My strength is to "vasbyt", which will help me in a race that is all about mental and physical fortitude."
According to Gilbert, the tougher the stages are at the Dakar Rally, the better for his style of riding. He was undoubtedly happy to discover then, that difficult stages is exactly what Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne had in mind for 2019.
"We are going to build more technical and difficult stages because in this type of geography of sand and dunes we cannot develop 400km special stages," said Lavigne.
With Branch's strength in sand and Gilbert's unique ability to persevere, Southern Africa's rally fans can expect big things as these two riders prepare to take on the most daunting challenge of their careers.
Exclusive interview with Ross Branch: https://web.facebook.com/notes/ktm-south-africa/kalahari-ferrari-heads-to-deserts-of-peru/10156875732010818/
Exclusive interview with Kenny Gilbert: https://web.facebook.com/notes/husqvarna-motorcycles-south-africa/gilbert-gears-up-for-dakar-glory/918718711652147/
Published by: ZC Marketing Consulting
Picture Caption: Ross Branch practising on his 2019 KTM 450 Rally Factory Replica
Photography by: www.zcmc.co.za