Kove Moto entering Sonora Rally,
Kove Moto had the Dakar Rally début of their dreams when all three factory riders Deng Liansong, Fang Mingji, and Sunier Sunier reached the finish. In April, the Chinese manufacturer hopes to continue their momentum as they enter their second World Rally-Raid Championship event at the Sonora Rally in Mexico.
The Kove 450 Rally bikes returned to China on Wednesday, where the #81 piloted by Deng was donated by Kove’s director Zhang Xue to wheel manufacturer and team sponsor Zhengxing Wheel Group. While the #81 will permanently be on display at a museum run by the company to celebrate the feat, the other two will continue to be used.
“When we started or even finished the race, I was thinking about what to do with our three bikes when they would be sent back,” Zhang stated. “Then I thought about one of them that needed to be sealed permanently and then it’s going to become an Excelle (Automobile, another name for Kove) story as the first generation of race bike and then the second-generation race bike, until the entire process of winning the championship is written in Excelle history, and will also be written in the history of Chinese racing. It proves that Chinese manufacturing can complete this kind of top international race.”
All three riders were new to Dakar, with Deng previously winning the Chinese national quad championship and competing in the FIM Motocross World Championship while Fang is a retired police officer and multi-time winner of the Taklimakan Rally in Xinjiang. Two-time World Enduro Champion and Dakar veteran Thierry Charbonnier was appointed team manager, and the trio also collaborated with DUUST Rally Team prior to the race.
Sunier recorded the best overall finish of the three of forty-sixth in the Rally2 category; he was also the only Kove rider to score top-twenty stage runs in the class with a twentieth in the fifth, thirteenth in the tenth, and nineteenth in the thirteenth. Deng was forty-fourth with his best stage finish being twenty-fourth in Stage #5, whereas Fang retired from the first and fourth legs but reached the finish classified in fifty-fourth.
The team was the first Chinese factory bike effort to compete at Dakar.
“This year’s Dakar has really attracted national interest to this country,” commented Zhengxing director of sales Zheng Minjie. “Zhengxin Tyres sponsored the entire Kove Motorcycle team; the whole company and the Zhenxing Group paid close attention to this competition. We were very worried about the performance of the band during the event, the whole event, as our sponsorship meant the whole machine was being tested to complete the whole race from start to finish. […]
“For this (bike), we actually have a tyre museum where the entire history and culture of Zhengxing is preserved. Excelle gave us this bike, and we will definitely put it on in our museum and we will make it whole. The entire event and its history can be included in the entire revitalisation and we will preserve them very well in history.”
Kove Moto was formed by Zhang, a former semi-pro motocross rider, in 2017 with particular interest in developing a racing programme. While rally raid is Kove’s main priority, they also have a road racing arm that will compete in the Supersport 300 World Championship in 2023 with Shengjunjie Zhou on a Kove 321RR-S. Zhang also hopes to bring the make into motocross and enduro competition.
Formally a brand of Tibet New Summit Motorcycle Co., the company has sold bikes under various names domestically such as the aforementioned Excelle and Colove. Kove has also started expanding sales globally.
Zhang envisioned a five-year plan for the Dakar division: finish the rally in the first year (achieved), have at least one rider finish in the top twenty in the second, a top ten in the third, a podium in the fourth, and victory in the fifth.
“Before we started the rally, I thought about how we had to make sure a bike finished the race,” Zhang continued. “What we defined that as was invention and having an expert teacher. We also thought that Mr. Fang Mingji should be able to improve and secondly let the two newcomers learn, but the result was better than our expectations. Mingji and three bikes successfully completed the race, and then they just got sent back from checks and are starting to get ready for the Mexico Rally in the second half of April. Kove will continue to participate in the Rally and keep optimising the bike, because my five-year goal has been blown away.
“We will continue to engage in these types of cross-country rallies, so the first championship we want to win should also be cross-country events. Including rally, including enduro, including motocross, and road races, we will actively participate in them too.”
The Sonora Rally is the third round of the W2RC and will take place on 22–28 April.
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