Dakar

Kove Moto continuing rally operations despite team shutdown

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Credit: Horacio Cabilla/ASO

CEO Zhang Xue‘s departure from Kove Moto in March marked a new era for the Chinese manufacturer. One major sign of this was the dissolution of their rally raid team as they retool their operations, though they still maintain factory support for riders and teams.

A works programme still exists, led by Kove’s factory riders Neels Theric and Deng Liansong, albeit not with the same structure as the original team. Other members such as Fang Mingji will continue to race Kove 450 Rally bikes at the upcoming Taklimakan Rally, albeit under other banners like Sipson Rally Team.

“Everyone may be asking why we’re not with the Kove team,” explained Fang in a Douyin post. “In March, Zhang Xue, President Zhang, resigned. Not long after, Excelle’s (another name for the company) cross-country team was also disbanded. This year’s Excelle rally team will be Neels and my brother Deng Liansong.”

Zhang, a former motocross rider and Kove founder, left the company in March due to differences of opinion with other executives, but remains a shareholder. Despite his exit, Kove later released a statement stressing their racing endeavours in rally raid and superbike racing will continue as planned.

Kove made their rally début at the 2023 Dakar Rally, where all three of their riders including Fang and Deng reached the finish. They rapidly expanded their rally programme over the year by adding factory riders like Theric and Xavier Flick, then introduced the Kove 450 Rally EX. Mason Klein formed a factory-level partnership with Kove for the 2024 Dakar.

Since Dakar, privateer Kove bikes have continued to race in the World Rally-Raid Championship with Abdulla Lanjawi and Jatin Jain.

The Taklimakan Rally, which takes place in Kove’s native China, runs from 20 May to 1 June. Kove fielded six bikes at the 2023 edition including one for Zhang.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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