Ricky Brabec bags a win for JCR Honda at the 2016 Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series opener in Johnson Valley, California.
Story and Photos by Mark Kariya
Fresh off his excellent top-10 finish in the Dakar Rally, Ricky Brabec came home to America and dominated the opening round of the 2016 Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series, the 49th Annual Desert Motorcycle Club Winter Classic in Johnson Valley, California, Sunday.
The 2014 AMA Hare & Hound National Champion, the Johnny Campell Racing Honda-backed Brabec didn’t lead every inch of the way, as it took some time in the early going to find his hare & hound pace, but after he got into his groove, he easily triumphed over Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jacob Argubright and Purvines Racing Beta’s Nick Burson.
“I really wasn’t sure about the pace of the race [after being in rally mode for the two weeks before this] so I was just riding my own race,” Brabec said. “I blew a corner; the marking was okay, but I was still in roadbook mode [and] rally bike mode, hard-to-slow-down mode, just trying to adjust. Nick [Burson] got around me, and I just let it happen because I wasn’t sure of what to do.
“I kind of followed him for maybe five miles then got back around him then picked up the pace a little bit,” Brabec added. “I wanted to see what he was doing, his pace. Then I pushed, pushed, pushed and got around him. I tried to ride smooth the rest of the way, and I had zero problems.”
As is usual, Argubright trailed off the start, only worse than usual when he couldn’t start his bike in gear and lost time while having to find neutral so that he could get the machine to fire.
After that, Argubright said, came “a lot of sketchiness, a lot of sketchy passes—especially through the rocks.”
Argubright still went on to finish in second place.
Racing his 2016 Beta 480 RR for the first time, Burson saw his time at the front last only for a little while.
“We hit the rocks and I struggled,” he said. “I tried not to crash and throw it away then rode too timid and just struggled real bad in the rocks.”
Defending AMA Hare & Hound National Champion Ivan Ramirez likewise felt strangely uncomfortable. The FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team star rocketed off the start to lead at the bomb, then lost it on the downhill that followed with Brabec and privateer Yamaha rider Skyler Howes both choosing a better line. Even after following them, Ramirez couldn’t loosen up. He eventually finished seventh.
“I feel like it was a rough day for me,” Ramirez said. “I haven’t felt that tight in a long time. I just wanted to keep it on two wheels and ride smart.”
Zip-Ty Racing Husqvarna’s Dalton Shirey rode strong though he was alone most of the race, finishing fourth followed by LG Electric Yamaha rider Ryan Smith. Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Yamaha’s Justin Morgan, Ramirez, Vet A winner Morgan Crawford, FMF Pro 250 winner Nick Stover and Purvines Racing Beta rider Axel Pearson completed the top 10. Also of note: KTM rider Nicole Bradford successfully defended her Women A event title of on year ago, and DirtBikes.com test rider Nic Garvin finished 14th overall aboard his City Service Racing/Braasch Motorsports/STI Honda.
2016 Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series
49th Annual Desert Motorcycle Club Winter Classic
Johnson Valley OHV
Johnson Valley, California
Results: January 24, 2016 (Round 1 of 8)
1. Ricky Brabec-Hon (first Pro)
2. Jacob Argubright-Hus
3. Nick Burson-Bet
4. Dalton Shirey-Hus
5. Ryan Smith (Yam
6. Justin Morgan-Yam
7. Ivan Ramirez-KTM
8. Morgan Crawford-KTM (first A Vet)
9. Nick Stover-KTM (first Pro 250
10. Azel Pearson-Bet
11. Joseph Wasson-Yam
12. Ty Bartholomew-Kaw
13. Chance Wyllie-Kaw
14. Nicolas Garvin-Hon
15. Max Eddy Jr.-Kaw
16. Tyler Renshaw-KTM
17. Chris Green-KTM
18. Andrew Puckett-Yam
19. David Kamo-KTM
20. Nick Tolman-KTM
2016 Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series Points Standings (after 1 of 8 rounds)
1. Ricky Brabec-30/1win
2. Jacob Argubright-25
3. Nick Burson-21
4. Dalton Shirey-16
5. Ryan Smith-16
6. Justin Morgan-15
7. Ivan Ramirez-14
8. Morgan Crawford-13
9. Nick Stover-12
10. Azel Pearson-11