Having spent the previous two stages out of luck, and fuel, Ross Branch claimed a stage eight victory for Hero MotorSports.
With Saturday’s action called off due to storm conditions, Sunday provided a demanding 346 km special and overall 822km stage.
The Botswanan rider clinched the win after American Mason Klein looked to have it in the bag as the demanding day came to a close. While Klein’s efforts appeared to be enough for the overall standings, a four minute penalty for speeding reinstated Husqvarna’s Skyler Howes - who started the stage - back on top with Australian Daniel Sanders denying the KTM rider further, by two minutes, in the day’s classification.
"It's been a terrible week for us,” Branch said after finally meeting the finish. “I needed to get back on top for myself and for the team. They've worked so hard.
“I made a couple of small mistakes, but hopefully we can stay at the top of the leader board until all the guys have finished today and get another stage win for Hero MotorSports, that's the main goal.
“We wanted to be at the front at the end of the rally, but unfortunately that time has passed.
We ran out of fuel, which was completely unexpected and nobody's fault. We've been perfect today and that's what counts. Now I'll work with the team, take it one day at a time and make sure the motorbike is perfect for the rest of the W2RC season. We'll just keep on working and keep on pushing.”
“A tough day to open today,” Howes reflected. “We ended up riding in a group of three at the front, and although I think we did a really good job with the navigation, we took a little while to do it.
“The dirt is really wet, so that leaves a perfectly clear line for anyone following, and of course it makes it far easier to make up time on those ahead. I’d rather lose a few minutes than be going home though, so overall, I’m happy with how the day turned out and I'm still ahead in the overall.
“It’s rest day now, and that’s always an important milestone to hit. We knew the first half of this year’s event would be tough, and it was! Time to relax a little now before focusing on the final push to the finish next week.”