Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Xavier Flick joins Kove Moto factory programme

After running the Dakar Rally in January as the co-driver for Pato Silva, Xavier Flick will return to Saudi Arabia in 2024 on a Kove 450 Rally bike. Now a Kove Moto factory rider, he will make his début at the Rallye du Maroc in October to prepare for the 2024 Dakar Rally.

Flick ran his first Dakar in 2021; competing in the G2 (now Rally2) category in the Malle Moto class for solo riders, he overcame an early crash to finish thirty-second overall among all bikes. The effort came after honing his skills in France’s national enduro series, while his father François Flick ran the Dakar from 1998 to 2005.

He eventually began dabbling in navigating. Michael Metge, who mentored Flick ahead of his first Dakar, connected him with Silva and FN Speed Team for the 2023 Dakar Rally. The duo finished sixteenth in the T4 class.

Flick is the second French rider with Kove factory backing. Neels Theric aligned with the Chinese manufacturer ahead of the Sonora Rally in April, where he finished fourth overall in Rally2. He also plans to race in Morocco alongside Flick ahead of Dakar the following January.

Sunier, a Chinese national, serves as Kove’s main factory rider. He led a successful Dakar début for the marque where he and team-mates Deng Liansong and Fang Mingji all completed the race with Sunier leading them in twenty-seventh among Rally2. Sunier later placed ninth in class at Sonora. A month after Sonora, Kove fielded six bikes for the Taklimakan Rally in late May for the Chinese trio, Theric, Shu Haoyu, and team director Zhang Xue.

Kove has also partnered with regional distributors to enter the last two World Rally-Raid Championship rounds in Mexico and Argentina. Mike Johnson completed the Sonora Rally and Mexican 1000 in back-to-back weeks on a Kove 450 prepared by Kove’s North American retailer USA Motortoys and Rocky Mountain Detours, finishing fourth in the former’s National Enduro and runner-up at the latter in Pro Rally.

At the Desafío Ruta 40 in late August, Joaquín Debeljuh had a Kove bike rebadged as an RVM 450 to reflect Kove’s distribution partnership with RVM in Argentina. Debeljuh led the Open Moto class for much of the rally before retiring on the final stage due to a crash. 2022 Argentine rally champion Iván Martín was thirteenth in Rally2 on a Kove 450 that retained its branding, though it was also prepared by RVM.

The Rallye du Maroc, the final round of the W2RC, takes place on 13–18 October while the 2024 Dakar Rally opens the following season on 5 January. 2024 will be the second step in Zhang’s five-year Dakar plan for Kove, having envisioned the first year as focusing on completing the race (which they achieved) followed by aiming for a top-twenty finish in the 2024 edition, a top ten in 2025, a podium in 2026, and victory in 2027.