Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Mason Klein “talking to the teams but nothing is happening”

Mason Klein was one of the hottest prospects in rally raid, winning the inaugural World Rally-Raid Championship in the Rally2 class before graduating to the top-level RallyGP for 2023. However, he stood out from most of his new classmates as a privateer with no factory support, a status that ultimately cut short his rookie season after the first three rounds.

With the 2024 Dakar Rally and season two months away, he is still trying to make ends meet by putting together the funding to take part. He remains a free agent despite attempted contacts with potential teams.

“I’m really unsure who is actually interested,” wrote Klein in a Facebook comment. “I feel that I just need to be patient and try to keep my name out there I’m definitely trying hard and talking to the teams but nothing is happening so far.”

Klein moved up to RallyGP in 2023 with BAS World KTM Racing Team. He was the youngest rider in the class when the Dakar Rally took place at just 21, but quickly showcased his skill as he won Stage #2. He added two more daily podiums in Stages #3 and #8, the latter putting him up into third overall, before crashes the following day left him with injuries that forced him to bow out of the rally entirely.

He ran eighth in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge before a broken clutch on the final day caused his campaign to end in retirement, followed by a thirteenth in class at the Sonora Rally. Sonora was ultimately his final W2RC race of the season as he did not run the Desafío Ruta 40 or Rallye du Maroc.

“Budget cuts with KTM has left him without a ride,” explained his father Larry. “Being so late in the year, all the other teams have filled their positions for pilots this year’s event.”

With the W2RC out of the picture, he turned towards other events. In August, Klein competed in Brazil’s Rally dos Sertões and won the bike overall on début. He eventually returned to American racing for the first time in two years, winning the overall at the AMA District 37’s Dog ‘Gon It Night Race and Best In The Desert’s Laughlin Desert Classic. Currently, he is taking part in the 1000 Dunas Rally, a week-long rally from Granada, Spain, to Merzouga, Morocco, and back.

While there are plenty of races to fill his calendar, the search for a return to the World Championship continues. In September, Coyote Trail Adventures organised the Mason Ride, a 475-mile bike trip through the Mojave desert to raise funds for his 2024 Dakar effort. He also put up his Kove factory rally bike for sale; although Kove Moto has enjoyed success in their first season in the W2RC and he was positive about the bike’s performance, Klein mentioned the factory team has not signed him either.

Privateers are routinely celebrated as they compete on their own budget, though it goes without saying that it is a difficult endeavour without backing. Ace Nilson and Justin Gerlach have both spoken with The Checkered Flag about trying to afford the trip to Dakar as non-factory entries: Nilson, despite having a team for the 2023 Dakar, still had to pay over USD$100,000 for a multitude of fees including registration, bike rental, staff, and travel; Gerlach went as far as to sell his car and motorcycle as well as close his savings account.

“Rally is EXPENSIVE. It explains why no American privateer attends Dakar without support,” commented Klein’s mother Lisa. “[…] Mason is about 10 years younger than his major competition. Yes he’s immature and 22. He has an older rally bike at home. It’s not adequate to race Dakar.”

Klein is accepting Venmo donations at @MasonKlein98 while PayPal contributions can be made to [email protected].

With time continuing to tick, the 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January. Registration for the championship runs through 15 December.