World Rally-Raid Championship

Wei Han, Neels Theric dominate 2024 Taklimakan Rally

6 Mins read
Credit: Taklimakan Rally

Even with their reorganisation over the spring, Kove Moto was not going to miss a beat when the 2024 Taklimakan Rally rolled around. Neels Theric and Deng Liansong, the remaining members of the factory team, won nearly all of the nine bike stages with the former claiming six en route to his first career rally raid win.

Theric, a factory rider for Kove since 2023 who has competed in the World Rally-Raid Championship, set the tone early by winning three of the first four stages (Stage #2 was cancelled for bikes after many competitors struggled on the first day) before Liansong had his time in the spotlight. The victory is the first in an major rally for Kove, whose CEO Zhang Xue departed in March and prompted a restructuring of the company; five riders raced a Kove 450 Rally, with Theric and Liansong on the new 450 Rally EX.

Off-road legend Robby Gordon and his son Max Gordon returned to China to compete in the T3 class with their burgeoning SPEED UTV brand. Max was the fastest in the Prologue and ran top ten in the category before rolling into a ditch in Stage #9. 2023 T1.2 winner Tao Pengfei pulled him out and he was unharmed, though his race was rendered null. The elder Gordon finished ninth in T3.

“The Taklimakan is very similar to a Dakar,” said Robby, a Dakar veteran. “Stages #1, #2, and #3 were were very, very, very tough. Last couple of stages really fit our vehicle. This is more of Arizona-, California-style riding. The first three days were very silty and very, very deep soft sand; I think the first three stages of the Taklimakan was tougher than the Dakar. The last couple stages were pretty easy, was kind of cool with the ice and the snow yesterday.

“Unfortunately, we got all the cars really muddy and dirty before the final special, but besides that, it was some great terrain up there, some great villages up on top of the hill. That was a lot of fun. I think it’s a good run for us. We’re very, very happy with with our result. It’s great that [the rally] has twenty years going. We’re excited to be part of it. I look forward to come back next year and competing. I think we’ll bring a big car.”

T1+, the highest subcategory in rally raid, swept the top five and occupied seven of the top ten spots. Wei Han notched his fourth Taklimakan triumph in a Red-Lined REVO, a new T1+ car introduced in late 2023; Wei has a partnership with manufacturer Red-Lined Motorsport, which entailed building a new T1+ for the 2024 Dakar in January. Sun Ping, a fellow Dakar competitor, was runner-up in a Prodrive Hunter ahead of a fleet of JJ3 cars. Unlike the foreign Prodrive and Red-Lined brands, the JJ3 is built in China by JJsport.

“This is a major win for us as a manufacturer and a particularly rewarding one. Our REVO T1+ V8 won in a super competitive field of Ultimate rally raid cars, which included 22 T1+ machines from most of the leading international manufacturers,” commented Red-Lined boss Terence Marsh. “The Taklimakan Rally is regarded as the second biggest rally raid race in the world after the Dakar, so a massive shout-out once again to Wei Han and his HanWei Motorsport team on what is a truly incredible achievement. We are extremely proud, to say the very least.”

JJ3 driver Tao Yongming briefly took the overall lead with a Stage #3 win before losing it back to Wei the next day, the latter winning despite getting stuck thrice and having to drive without a clutch. The CR6 of Zhang Huijun won Stage #9; Century Racing, another international rally raid manufacturer, also sent three of their premier CR7 T1+ cars, with Liu Yatuan scoring a top ten.

The race spanned 4,377.5 kilometres from Kashgar to Aksu. Stage #6 was cancelled due to massive sandstorms. The day before was the longest leg distance-wise at nearly 700 km as it ran along the Keriya River, while the final day was only 23.35 km in terms of timed sections as Wei and Theric iced their victories.

“There was no suspense in this stage,” Wei stated about the final leg, “but I think the biggest charm of cross-country racing is that it is always full of unknowns until the last one, so we still had to be very careful to complete the last stage today.”

Stage winners

StageStartFinishSelective Section DistanceTotal DistanceCar WinnerBike WinnerDate
1KashirMaigaiti150.66 km397.97 kmWei HanNeels Theric21 May
2MaigaitiMaigaiti200.55 km204.26 kmWei HanN/A22 May
3MaigaitiMaigaiti283.04 km285.86 kmTao YongmingLi Hua23 May
4MaigaitiMoyu County373.37 km549 kmWei HanNeels Theric25 May
5Keriya RiverKeriya River288.31 km697.51 kmSu HaotianNeels Theric26 May
6Wuqiao CountyWuqiao County285.91 km642 kmN/AN/A27 May
7HotanAksu City122.98 km589.73 kmWei HanDeng Liansong29 May
8Aksu CityAksu City219.56 km532.07 kmZhang HuijunDeng Liansong30 May
9Aksu CityWensu Grand Canyon200.18 km335.86 kmZhang HuijunNeels Theric31 May
10Wensu Grand CanyonAksu City23.35 km91.83 kmZhang GuoyuNeels Theric1 June

Class winners

ClassNumberCompetitorTeamTotal Time
Bike1Neels ThericKove Moto26:17:30
T1+117Han WeiHanWei Motorsport25:52:07
T1.1102Liu YanguiShanxi Yunxiang Racing29:06:58
T1.2162Ma YuanQinhuangdao Brothers Racing Team28:07:45
T2252UritunashengChery Racing Team105:50:16
T3110Wu ZhenxuanBell Lubricants UK Pole Sports Racing Team34:53:31

Final results

Car

FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicleClassTotal Time
1117Han WeiMa LiHanWei MotorsportRed-Lined REVO T1+T1+25:52:07
2106Sun PingMin LiaoYunXiang RacingProdrive HunterT1+26:10:08
3128Fan GaoxiangYue CailleiQian’an Jiujiang Auto and Motorcycle Sports ClubJJ3 T1+T1+26:53:21
4132Tao YongmingShen XinQian’an Jiujiang Auto and Motorcycle Sports ClubJJ3 T1+T1+27:08:01
5127Lu BinglongGao ZhenweiDuonai Shock Absorber FleetJJ3 T1+T1+27:23:16
6162Ma YuanTianYuQinhuangdao Brothers Racing TeamHard Tiger Racing EVO3T1.228:07:45
7120Zhang HuijunPeng YiboChifeng Mingyuan Industrial CR6 Racing eamCentury CR6T1.228:19:37
8105Liu YatuanLiu ShengCR7 Racing TeamCentury CR7T1+28L29:59
9102Liu YanguiFu XinmingYunXiang RacingYunXiang Racing 4WDT1.129:06:58
10111JiairongPan HongyuYunXiang RacingProdrive HunterT1+29:20:10
11175Zhang DejinChen QingkaiHeilongjiang Longjia Xianyue Rally TEamCentury CR6T1.229:55:37
12163Pan JingboPang ZhiwangK-Man DO Wheel Hard Tiger Racing TeamHard Tiger Racing EVO3T1.230:30:33
13170Song KunGuo JunKunming Keden Group Eagle Racing TeamEagle Racing 2WDT1.230:54:17
14119Wang MingnaiDu XuanyiChifeng Mingyuan Industrial CR6 Racing eamCentury CR6T1.231:02:44
15107Ji YunliangSha HeYunXiang RacingYunXiang Racing 2WDT1.231:16:09
16161Wang PengLiu YanQinhuangdao Brothers Racing TeamHard Tiger Racing EVO3T1.232:57:28
17173Li XinyuWang YirongChengde Lei Feng Songpo Xiaofengxian Hotel Racing TeamCentury CR6T1.233:51:35
18165Shen ShengleiWang BenyouK-Man DO Wheel Hard Tiger Racing TeamHard Tiger Racing EVO3T1.234:17:44
19156Zhang PengTong ZhenrongCR7 Racing TeamCentury CR7T1+34:43:21
20110Wu ZhenxuanYao BinBritish Bell Lubricants Extreme Sports TeamCan-Am Maverick X3T334:53:31
21307Wang QingxiGuo FengBritish Bell Lubricants Extreme Sports TeamCan-Am Maverick X3T327:32:57
22113Fei WeiYao YongXinjiang Bayi Steel TeamToyota HiluxT1.137:37:40
23310Niu YuehuaZhang MozhenNiu Hong Hong TeamCan-Am Maverick X3T338:41:53
24137Lin JieYang YingXinjiang Bayi Steel TeamToyota HiluxT1.138:44:58
25160Sun HaoWang DongdongRZOIL Chengde Lei Feng Long Xing Tianxia Rally TeamDragon Racing 4WDT1.139:40:30
26157Zheng WeijunMa SonShanxi Crossborder Racing ClubToyota HiluxT1+46:46:26
27185Wang GuoruiWang XiaofengShandong Longmai Racing TeamSMG HW2021T1.250:29:48
28101Pu YungangMa WenkeYunXiang RacingYunXiang Racing 2WDT1.251:10:50
29190Li ChangbinFeng CongbiaoTangshan Mantuyou Modified Duonai Shock Absorber FleetTrophy Truck 2WDT1.353:50:42
30308Li YuMiao JinhuaShaanxi Shabao Cross-Country ClubCan-Am Maverick X3T354:58:04
31131Ou ZhibinYu ZeshunDuonai Shock Absorber FleetJiujiang Racing 2WDT1+55:38:58
32108Zhu GuanghaiLiu JianYunXiang RacingYunXiang Racing 2WDT1.256:42:50
33138Song XiaolongWeng ZhiqiangXinjiang Bayi Steel TeamMitsubishi 4WDT1.157:06:29
34321Deng RenguiFan LijunJilin Zhongchi Logistics Co., Ltd. TeamCan-Am Maverick X3T357:37:49
35121Wang WenlinLiu ZhigangChongqing Zhongqi Off-Road Ningxia Southern Mall Racing TeamEagle Racing 2WDT1.258:25:10
36168Jia HaiYuan BinChongqing Zhongqi Off-Road Ningxia Southern Mall Racing TeamEagle Racing 2WDT1.258:26:17
37115Zhang GuoyuLi PengchengYunXiang RacingYunXiang Racing 2WDT1.260:08:32
38118Qiao XiaohuaWu QiHanWei MotorsportSMG HW2021T1.261:26:47
39150Zuo XiaobingQu ShanshunXinjiang Bayi Steel TeamToyota TacomaT1.161:41:52
40191Wang XiuliangZhang HailongTangshan Mantuyou Modified Duonai Shock Absorber FleetToyota PickupT1+61:58:46
41311Ji YananBai ZhonghuaQujing Tianfuyuan Off-Road Vehicle ClubCan-Am Maverick X3T362:47:12
42129Zhao YuqiaoGui HaiboQian’an Jiujiang Auto and Motorcycle Sports ClubJJ3 T1+T1+64:20:07
43139Zhang TianhuaLian JunjieXinjiang Bayi Steel TeamToyota TacomaT1.167:33:22
44166Zhang LijingZhong ShixinK-Man DO Wheel Hard Tiger Racing TeamHard Tiger Racing EVO3T1.269:41:10
45133Sun XiangyanMa XinQian’an Jiujiang Auto and Motorcycle Sports ClubJJ3 T1+T1+72:52:54
46183Wu XiangLi RunpuSand Lizard Shock Absorber FleetSMG HW2021T1.274:#6:08
47309Ding YuanmengLiu YuanNiu Hong Hong TeamCan-Am Maverick X3T374:48:01
48172Wu QihuiZhang LuChengde Lei Feng Songpo Xiaofengxian Hotel Racing TeamCentury CR6T1.276:29:14
49180Zhang LibinXie LiangKashgar Xinjintai Racing TeamToyota HiluxT1+80:50:48
50322Uli JimurenZhang XingbaoHulunbuir Canglang White Deer Racing TeamCan-Am Maverick X3T382:00:05
51152Huang WeizhiFu QiangJAC Pickup TeamJACT1.183:01:22
52116Liu FeilongWang ZengdleYunXiang RacingProdrive HunterT1+87:49:38
53176Wang BotongMiao ZhijunHenan Baitong Rally TeamJiujiang Racing 2WDT1.288:13:07
54151Peng FurenYang WeiQujing Tianfuyuan Off-Road Vehicle ClubToyota HiluxT1.191:53:47
55188Jian LeLiu JintaoBeijing Daxing District Master Emergency Rally TeamRJ Racing T1+T1+94:25:19
56192Wang JiefengYang JunShaanxi Shabao Cross-Country ClubToyota HiluxT1+96:36:40
57301Robby GordonJoanna LiBlack Bear Tire SPEED UTV TeamSPEED UTV El DiabloT3100:10:38
58186Tao PengfeiWang HaiyangChery Racing TeamChery 4WDT1.1101:15:26
59171Su HaotianWang YichengKunming Kedeng Group Xiongying Racing TeamXiongying Racing 2WDT1.2102:20:57
60252UritunashengTu JianchunChery Racing TeamChery 4WDT2.1105:50:16
61179Zai YongLiu YanAralta Desert TeamToyota Land CruiserT1.1109:23:48
62158Hu GuohuaKuang JingenRZOIL Chengde Lei Feng Long Xing Tianxia Rally TeamDragon Racing 4WDT1.1110:42:12
63159Cheng BingHe WeiYadilongxingtianxia Rally TeamDragon Racing 4WDT1.1114:53:28
64189Zhang XuefengChen LiminBeijing Daxing District Master Emergency Rally TeamRJ Racing T1+T1+116:49:25
65302Max GordonZhao XilaiBlack Bear Tire SPEED UTV TeamSPEED UTV El DiabloT3117:37:17
66167Yang HongbingJia JunChina Automobile Off-Road Ningxia Southern Mall Racing TeamXiongying Racing 2WDT1.2120:43:56
67303Wang XiangYang TaoBlack Bear Tire SPEED UTV TeamSPEED UTV El DiabloT3136:42:37
68256Meng BinHuang ZhifengBeijing MotorcadeBAIC BJ40CT2.1143:31:28
69130Lin DeweiWang YangDuonai Shock Absorber FleetJJ3 T1+T1+146:37:15
70187Ji DedongGao WanqiangDalian Jiuxing Mechanical Off-Road TeamToyota HiluxT1.1146:38:53
71255Hu HongdeWang PingBeijing Automotive TeamBAIC BJ40CT2.1150:37:52
72253Chen ZhenZhao KaiBeijing MotorcadeBAIC BJ40CT2.1150:59:53
73251Hou HongningXiao HerenChery Racing TeamChery Tiggo 8T2.1151:21:40
74155Pan DongGao HuiWuhan Dongsheng Speed Racing TeamToyota HiluxT1.1151:43:01
75193Li JianminYang HaoShandong Longmai Racing TeamSMG HW2021T1.2220:47:49
76122Liu KunXing XinjianShandong Longmai Racing TeamYunXiang Racing 2WDT1.2299:24:00
DNF104Wang ShilinTian LeHenan Baitong Rally TeamJJ3 T1+T1+DNF
DNF112Zhang MingQin XuYunXiang RacingProdrive HunterT1+DNF
DNF123Chen FengZhou YuandeYunXiang RacingDragon Racing 4WDT1.1DNF
DNF177Liu ZhongyuanBai LuRZOIL Chengde Lei Feng Long Xing Tianxia Rally TeamTruck 2WDT1.3DNF
DNF181Li DazhiWang XianchenQian’an Jiujiang Auto and Motorcycle Sports ClubSMG HW2021T1.2DNF

Bike

FinishNumberRiderTeamBikeTime
11Neels ThericKove MotoKove 450 Rally EX26:17:30
26Abbas GhapalSminger Racing TeamYamaha WR450F29:35:11
33Fang MingjiSipson Rally TeamKove 450 Rally30:21:51
410Guanqigesu RongGuyue Rally TeamKTM 450 Rally30:49:57
520Yuan BoStay Away from Road ConvoysKTM 450 Rally32:11:50
662Zhou HePanda Racing TeamQianjiang QJMotor ATV 100035:43:23
711Dong ChaoAmerican Ma Yuefeng Rally TeamKTM 450 Rally39:29:35
82Deng LiansongKove MotoKove 450 Rally EX51:52:19
923Purevdorj MurunPanda Racing TeamKTM 450 Rally Replica57:42:18
107Chen YaoSminger Racing TeamKTM 450 Rally58:54:34
118Ma WeixiaoGuyue Rally TeamKTM 450 Rally59:26:23
1217Li HuaPanda Racing TeamKTM 450 EXC71:45:32
135Fang XiangliangSipson Rally TeamKove 450 Rally EX78:03:46
1415Tang YanghuMOTOREX-KTM Knight Academy TeamKTM 450 EXC83:27:39
1518Baatar BalturPanda Racing TeamKTM 450 Rally120:15:23
1612Li JianMOTOREX-KTM Knight Academy TeamKTM 450 EXC124:18:17
1716Li YiyaoStay Away from Road ConvoysKTM 450 EXC150:21:44
1813Lian HuanMOTOREX-KTM Knight Academy TeamKTM 450 EXC152:17:52
1922Si KaiSujiang Feitie Rally TeamKTM 450 EXC152:47:42
DNF9Hai LaKove MotoKove 450 RallyDNF
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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