Mason Klein partners with Kove Moto for 2024 Dakar Rally

Mason Klein will still run the 2024 Dakar Rally as a privateer, but has gained a much-needed factory backer. On Tuesday, Kove Moto announced Klein will race the #98 Kove 450 Rally EX at Dakar, marking the Chinese manufacturer’s début in the top-level RallyGP category. While Klein is technically not part of the flagship team as he is racing under his Klein Off-Road Racing Team banner, he will have equal access to parts and resources as his factory counterparts.

“I think the bike is ready to go,” said Klein. “I really feel like I wouldn’t go there if I wasn’t there to win. Top ten is the easy part; we already did that. My mom says ‘finish,’ but last time I told my mom I wanted top ten and we got it, so this time I’m saying I want to win. That’s the goal.”

The 2022 World Rally-Raid Champion in the Rally2 class, Klein graduated to RallyGP in 2023 with BAS World KTM Racing Team. Despite his youth and quick pace, winning a stage at the Dakar Rally, he was out of a ride midseason due to a lack of funding. In the meantime, he took part in events like the Rally dos Sertões in Brazil and the 1000 Dunas Rally in Spain and Morocco, both races that he won.

To keep his career afloat, Klein continued to try opening talks with other teams in addition to fundraising via Venmo and PayPal as well as selling t-shirts. In September, he partnered with Coyote Trail Adventures to organise a bike ride to raise money for his Dakar effort. By October, however, he admitted that hunting for interested teams was proving to be a difficult endeavour.

The move to Kove, while not making him a factory rider in the traditional sense, provides him an opportunity with a manufacturer that has been rapidly growing their rally raid programme. Last week, Kove revealed an upgraded 450 Rally that is lighter but more powerful than its predecessor.

2024 will be Kove’s second Dakar after all three of their riders finished on début in January. The team ran three more W2RC rounds in 2023 and will head to the 2024 race with factory riders like Xavier Flick, Neels Theric, Fang Xiangling, Sunier, and Zhang Min. Kove manager Zhang Xue envisions a five-year plan for the team. After simply completing the first Dakar in 2023, he hopes to see a top-twenty finish for 2024. 2025 will be focused on achieving a top ten, followed by a podium in 2026 and finally a win in 2027.

The 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January. Klein finished ninth in his début in 2022 as the top Rally2 rider, while injuries ended his sophomore start.

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Author: Justin Nguyen

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