Normally, two wins in a row jumpstarts one’s championship aspirations, but that might not be true for Taylor Robert since the FMF KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team ace missed two rounds of the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series while recovering from his King of the Motos injury.
But two consecutive victories certainly don’t hurt.
The winner of round six in the series—the new X12 Virgin Ground Hare & Hound hosted by the Buzzards Motorcycle Club in Plymouth, Utah—added 30 points to take his total to 99. That puts him fourth behind race runner-up Gary Sutherlin (143), defending series champ Ricky Brabec (whose total of 115 remained unchanged after missing his second round due to injury) and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Jacob Argubright (a DNF after his bike expired following an underwater excursion so he remains on 105 points).
“I guess [any chances I have for the championship] depends on how many more guys jump in a lake!” Robert quipped after winning the three-loop, 77-mile race. “I guess Jake and Nick ended up in the lake today. I’m not really here thinking I’m going to win the championship. I’m just coming out and trying to win some races. I kind of ruined my chances for a championship by missing two rounds [due to injury] completely. I’ll try to win the rest of them. If it works out, it works out, but I’m not counting on it. Gary’s still riding solid; he’s been on the podium, I think, every race so that’s going to be hard to beat when you miss a couple races.”
Mathematically, with four rounds remaining, 120 points are up for grabs.
Given Sutherlin’s consistency (he has, indeed, podiumed all six rounds to date), it’s unlikely Robert could displace him at the top of the points chart. The Purvines DA8 Racing Yamaha leader observed, “This puts me about 28 points ahead of Ricky—which isn’t much with him; you know he’s going to come out swinging at [the next round]—and quite a bit over Jake again, I think; it’s 40-something now because he DNFed. (Sutherlin has a 38-point advantage over Argubright.)
A new event, the X12 Virgin Ground H&H lived up to its name as it was held on a private ranch, utilizing much of its flat, fast, grass-covered fields along with runs into the hills to the west where riders tackled fast, rocky two-track, single-track recently cut through the sage and a few steep uphills and downhills.
After missing four years of Nationals due to fulfilling his church mission responsibilities, Tuffy Pearson put a quick move on Argubright to lead throughout most of the early fast field sections. To get out of his dust, those behind began to drift wider and farther from the main line—perfectly normal in desert racing.
Unfortunately, a few surprises lay hidden in the tall grass, however well off the main racing line, and they caught out more than a few. For example, a pond ended up drowning not only Argubright’s FX 450 but also killed Purvines DA8 Racing rider Nick Burson’s YZ450FX and the YZ250 of Chidester Transport Racing’s Tyler Lynn.
And that wasn’t all. Both Morgan Crawford and Nic Garvin also fell victim to sizable obstacles in separate high-speed incidents. City Service Racing Honda-mounted Garvin said he hit a bath tub but was able to soldier on to an eventual 11th overall. Crawford wasn’t as lucky after hitting a watering trough that ruined his SRT KTM and left him unable to continue after hurting both wrists.
Even those up front weren’t immune.
The Pearson brothers—Tuffy and Axel—led the way for the first loop (shortened from its original 30 miles in order to bypass a particularly deep creek with Purvines DA8 Racing rider Axel the leader over Tuffy and followed fairly closely by Robert and Sutherlin. But the course eventually bit both Pearsons.
“I held it on as much as I wanted to, safely,” Sutherlin confessed. “Axel and Tuffy, it was nuts. I’ve never seen anybody go that fast through stuff [where you couldn’t see]. They were pinned!’ I said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to do anything stupid right now.’ Me and Taylor kind of stayed together and then going out on the second loop in fourth [behind Axel, Tuffy and Robert]. I took my time a little [to miss the pond where all those guys drowned out]. When those guys were pinning it, I had a couple close calls right off the bat and I said, ‘Man, I’m just going to take it slow, take it easy and be smart.’
“I’ve got WORCS next weekend so I wanted to get out of here safe because I’ve got that championship on the line too,” he added. “It’s one of those things where I’ve got to really be smart right now and stay healthy.”
Tuffy Pearson exclaimed, “Man, today was gnarly! Battling Gary and Taylor and Axel was the most insane thing I think I’ve ever done in my life! We were just all-out through grass [where] we couldn’t see anything in it, as fast as we could go! Back and forth, back and forth.”
Robert had a front-row seat for the Pearson carnage on 30-mile loop two, reporting, “I was right behind Tuffy and he flipped over the bars right in front of me. I stopped and asked, ‘Are you okay?’ and he gave me the thumbs up so I took off. The same thing happened with his brother, Axel. He must’ve had a pretty good wreck because I saw this big rock that was pulled out [of the ground] and he got up right in front of me so I’m a few bikelengths behind him and, literally, a hundred yards after where he pulled up that big rock, he flipped over the bars again and I think he broke his collarbone. I couldn’t see the things that they were hitting, either, because they were in the grass.”
Those get-offs handed the lead to Robert who managed the race from the front for the rest of the afternoon.
“After both of those guys wrecked right in front of me, I was basically just like, ‘All right, I’m going to just trail ride, and honestly, it’s so dusty out here that, hopefully, I can ride whatever pace I want and the guys behind me won’t be able to pass me because it’s so dusty.’” Robert said. “So that was pretty much my [strategy] because I didn’t want to push harder than I needed to out there.”
Robert “trail-rode” his way to the finish in two hours, 20 minutes and six seconds, with Sutherlin a minute and six seconds behind him.
Tuffy Pearson surprised himself by holding on for third in 2:25:52 aboard his (2012-model) Pearson Brothers Construction/Dynamic Dirt Suspension KTM 450 XC-F.
“I’m super-surprised, actually!” he confessed. “I didn’t expect a podium. I was hoping for top 10 and here I am third so yeah, kind of shocking!”
Axel Pearson managed to ride through the pain of a suspected cracked collarbone and finished fourth in 2:27:47 to give Purvines DA8 Racing a 2-4 day followed by Justin Morgan in 2:30:20, the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Honda rider still fatigued after all the pre-running leading to his team’s winning Baja 500 ride the week before the Plymouth race.
First-time FMF Pro 250 winner Nick Tolman rode a great race to sixth overall aboard his Notch Peak Racing KTM 250 XC-F in 2:35:18, followed 3:01 later by class runner-up Clayton Gerstner. Utah’s Cory Pincock also enjoyed a banner day, winning Senior A and finishing eighth overall followed by third-place FMF Pro 250 rider Braydon Bland and SRT Yamaha rider Ryan Smith.
The conditions apparently didn’t faze Ryno Power/FMF/Bell Helmets KTM 250 XC-F rider Britney Gallegos, the New Mexico native winning Women A over riding partner Brandy Richards, the pair finishing an impressive 28th and 29th overall, respectively, in 2:58:22 and 2:58:30. Class points leader Kacy Martinez-Coy struggled a bit in the dust, but remains the Women A points leader after finishing third in class and 40th overall in 3:04:25.
2017 Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series
X12 Virgin Ground Hare & Hound
Buzzards Motorcycle Club
Results: June 11, 2017 (Round 6 of 10)
1. Taylor Robert-KTM (first Open Pro)
2. Gary Sutherlin-Yam
3. Tuffy Pearson-KTM
4. Axel Pearson-Yam
5. Justin Morgan-Hon
6. Nick Tolman-KTM (first Pro 250)
7. Clayton Gerstner-KTM
8. Cory Pincock-KTM (first A Senior)
9. Braydon Bland-KTM
10. Ryan Smith-Yam
11. Nic Garvin-Hon
12. Ryan Karell-Yam
13. Jonathan Branscom-Hon (first A Vet)
14. Tyler Wettstein-Yam (first A 250)
15. Andrew Puckett-Yam
16. Daemon Woolslayer-Yam
17. Brad Benson
18. Nathan Lundquist-KTM
19. Tate Hurley (first A Open)
20. Kelly Fisher-KTM
For more results, visit www.nationalhareandhound.com.