The lessons learned after spending last year chasing the FIM Enduro World Championship plus his legendary physical fitness combined to propel FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Taylor Robert to the top of the podium at the Sage Riders Motorcycle Club’s Rockwell Desert Devotional, round five of the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Jacob Argubright finished second for the second consecutive Hare & Hound round while Purvines DA8 Racing Yamaha rider Gary Sutherlin earned the points lead with his third-place finish. Defending series champion and previous points leader Ricky Brabec chose to skip the race, the Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda star still recovering from injuries suffered in the late-race crash en route to winning last week’s National in California.
With the Sage Riders laying out three loops of 40, 29 and 32 miles for this Hare & Hound, and using the entire spectrum of terrain available in the Little Sahara Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area near Jericho, Utah, it was easy to predict the race would be long and tiring. It started off in Little Sahara’s famed sand dunes before heading up into the rocky hills and trees to the east for the majority of the race with wind and rain also in the mix.
“As soon as I got into the lead off the start, I was a little worried because it was really fast and virgin [trails through the sand dunes and grassy sand area]—just kind of stuff I don’t like—but then it started getting into the trees and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so much fun!’ and I just started feeling really good,” Robert shared. “I didn’t really make any mistakes all day except for the last two miles. I lost the course for about 30 seconds or so and I had to turn around and come back to it so that kind of scared me so close to the finish. But other than that, I felt good and it feels good to get back up on top that quickly [after my crash a few months ago].”
Robert, of course, had to skip two rounds of the Hare & Hound series due to his injuries, but the win in only his fourth-ever National proved his versatility.
For desert veteran Argubright, the race was something of a cat-and-mouse scenario.
“I rode pretty good. Taylor just rode a little bit better,” he admitted. “I rode better on the first loop, I think—minus the dust. In the open stuff I was catching him; I’ve got my bike really working well. The same with the third loop. We went five, 10 miles of open stuff and I felt really good, then we got into the trees and he rode a little bit better.”
Argubright took the checkered flag almost a minute and a half behind Robert, who finished in three hours, 21 minutes and 32 seconds.
As for Sutherlin, he raced despite a growing laundry list of physical ills; realizing he could steal the points lead was likely his strongest motivation to roll up to the starting line. The shoulder he dislocated two weeks ago at the WORCS race still pains him, but his crash at last week’s So Cal National left him with a bruised and swollen left calf. And to top it off, he came down with whatever bug young daughter Emerie picked up and spent a miserable night before the race with a fever and other unpleasantness. The Sage Riders race thus became his second in a row of damage control, just getting to the finish as best he could.
“I didn’t get to ride [during the week] the last three weeks, actually, and I didn’t know if I could get my boot on [over my calf today] so I had it as loose as I possibly could and crammed it in, took some Ibuprofen and just went for it,” he said. “I knew the start was crucial so I pulled the holeshot to the flags, but I took a bad line on the double road crossing and Taylor jumped the middle; I jumped too far left and the course went kind of right there and he got by me. I wasn’t pushing very hard off the beginning—I was kind of feeling it all out. I dropped a few spots then kind of worked my way up. This place was brutal!”
But it was worth it, his third place giving him enough points to take the National Hare & Hound Series points lead lead from Brabec, 118-115. Argubright solidified third in points, moving closer to the front two at 105.
After crashes, Purvines DA8 Racing teammates Axel Pearson and Burson finished fourth and fifth, respectively, giving the team a strong 3-4-5. Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Honda rider Justin Morgan nabbed sixth place ahead of SRT Yamaha’s Ryan Smith, Moto Xperts Suzuki-mounted Cooper Ashton, Stevens Erectors, Inc. Husqvarna rider Taylor Stevens and City Service Racing Honda’s Nic Garvin.
Chidester Transport Racing YZ250 rider Tyler Lynn earned his second career FMF Pro 250 victory, placing 11th overall, just two seconds behind Garvin and several minutes ahead of class runner-up Morgan Crawford on his SRT Husqvarna. Barnes Construction YZ250-mounted Burke Barnes claimed third in class, his second trip to the podium.
The Hare & Hound Women’s A class turned out to be a thriller with part-time racer Kate Schade leading most of the way on her Kate’s Real Foods KTM. Class points leader Kacy Martinez-Coy found herself stuck on a sand dune off the start and lost lots of time, but the FMF KTM rider quickly made up the lost time. By the end of the first loop, she was second, almost four minutes behind Schade, then third at the end of loop two behind Schade and Bell Helmets KTM rider Britney Gallegos. Martinez-Coy finally got the upper hand on the final loop and won for the fourth time this season with Schade a strong second and Gallegos third, which keeps her second in points behind the FMF KTM racer, 145, 122. Chidester Transport Racing Yamaha rider Stephanie Woolslayer remains third in points at 92 after her fourth-place finish.
2017 Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series
Sage Riders Motorcycle Club Rockwell Desert Devotional
Results: May 7, 2017 (Round 5 of 10)
1. Taylor Robert-KTM (first Pro)
2. Jacob Argubright-Hus
3. Gary Sutherlin-Yam
4. Axel Pearson-Yam
5. Nick Burson-Yam
6. Justin Morgan-Hon
7. Ryan Smith-Yam
8. Cooper Ashton-Suz
9. Taylor Stevens-Hus
10. Nick Garvin-Hon
11. Tyler Lynn-Yam (first 250 Pro)
12. Jared Schlapia-KTM
13. Morgan Crawford-Hus
14. Burke Barnes-Yam
15. Brody Honea-Yam
16. Tayson Weeks-KTM
17. Tyler Wettstein-Yam (first A 250)
18. Jonathan Branscom-Hon (first A vet)
19. Kyle Erickson-KTM
20. Austin Phillips-KTM (first A Open)
For more results, visit www.nationalhareandhound.com.