By the DR Staff
Welcome to Weekly Dirt, the best place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world. This week we had the MX Nationals wrap up, Kurt Caselli says goodbye to Hare & Hound, David Pearson shows some serious speed, SmartCarb testing continues and we take a look at the KTM Freeride 250 two stroke. Here we go!
Kurt Caselli’s Last H&H Hurrah, Pearsons in Panaca
As he’s done so often over the past three years, Kurt Caselli of the FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team earned a wire-to-wire victory—his sixth of the AMA Racing/FMF/GPR Hare & Hound National Championship Series—at the Silver State Trailblazers’ Muley Run in Panaca, Nevada. In doing, he wrapped up his third straight series championship and did so with one round remaining in the 10-race tour across four western states.
It was a remarkable comeback for the man who’s dominated the desert racing scene for three years; in case you forgot, he DNFed round one, giving up one race’s worth in points right there. After getting second behind Kendall Norman (the round-one winner) at round two, Caselli went on a tear, winning the next five in a row before settling for second behind Jacob Argubright at round eight last month.
With the title in hand again, Caselli doesn’t even have to show up at the 10th and final round—and he won’t. Instead, he’ll be in Morocco for only his third rally as he looks forward to beginning the next chapter in his professional racing career.
“That was my incentive for this weekend: If I could get the championship here, I was able to go to that rally to get ready for Dakar, so I’m happy it all worked out,” he explained.
His plan is to race the ISDE in Italy, go to Spain to spend a few days with teammate Marc Coma, then head to Morocco for the Red Bull KTM Factory Rally Team photo shoot/test and the rally itself.
As he reflected on his brief but brilliant hare & hound history, Caselli continued, “Four years ago when I told [FMF/KTM Off-Road Racing Team Manager] Antti [Kallonen] that I wanted to come back and do some hare & hounds, he was definitely open to it. He didn’t really know my background as a young desert racer and at that time we had David Pearson on the team and David Kamo.
“I really wanted to put in a few solid years and make that my stepping stone to get into [SCORE] Baja [racing] and to get into rally after Baja, but it kind of happened the way it did, which is fine.
“The last three years have been great with FMF/KTM. They put in all the work and it definitely shows. The structure of the team is perfect and just how the mechanics work, everybody down there [in Murrieta, California]—the engine builders and suspension guys—it comes together perfectly when you get out there on the race track. I honestly feel like my KTM is the best bike out there and that’s a HUGE confidence boost for me, and I can tell a lot of the competition kind of feels the same so it’s a good feeling.”
Speaking of mechanics, Anthony DiBasilio prepped the three bikes that finished on the podium in Nevada: Caselli’s winner, teammate Ivan Ramirez’s third-place 450 XC-F and runner-up David Pearson’s 450 SX-F. Pearson, of course, has been racing a KX450F for the THR Motorsports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts team for the past two years, but his contract this year covered only Best in the Desert and SCORE so he’s been absent this year in the hare & hounds.
Ever since he raced for KTM, though, he’s maintained a friendship with KTM enthusiast Dean Potts of Bonanza Plumbing. Pearson related, “He called me about a month ago and said, ‘Hey Pearson, what’re you up to?’
“I said, ‘I don’t know—I’m just hanging out, just up here living the good life in Lincoln County (where the Muley Run took place).’
“He said, ‘Well, do you want to ride for me in the hare & hound, your local race?’
“I said, ‘I don’t know—not really. I’m not doing hare & hounds this year. Back when I used to get paid to risk my life out there, I used to race them, but now I don’t get paid for it any more.’
“He said, ‘Well, let me put together a program [for this] and [you] think it over.’ ”
In order to avoid putting pressure on the 2007 series champ, Potts came up with a unique program. “He didn’t really put any pressure on me to win or to get second or third,” Pearson confided. “He said, ‘Hey, I’ll give you some money if you get top 10 and I’ll give you a little more money if you get top five.’
“I asked him, ‘What about first?’
“He said, ‘That’s the same as fifth—I don’t want to put pressure on you.’
“I said, ‘Okay, sounds good!’ ”
Ironically, according to Pearson, the 2011 KTM 450 SX-F that Potts provided was the very same ex-Caselli bike that was impounded by Imperial County (California) sheriffs when Potts inadvertently rode it across a dirt road to access a different location at the National outside of El Centro, California, in 2011. Potts ended up buying the bike from KTM afterwards and had Precision Concepts re-prep it for this race.
“It worked pretty stinkin’ good for not really testing it very much,” Pearson observed.
But he also revealed that there was another reason he didn’t ride it very much before the race: “I rode it the week before [last week’s] Vegas to Reno and it kind of spit me off. I hit a rock kind of weird and it high-sided me so I parked it for the week—I said, ‘All right, I’d better focus on riding my Kawi before Vegas to Reno.’
“So after Vegas to Reno [where we got second just six seconds behind the winners], on Monday I started riding the KTM again. I only put maybe four or five hours on it this week.”
And talk about being a hometown favorite, Pearson was the only one who could finish the race, then ride his bike 300 yards to his house, take a shower, change clothes and get back for the awards presentation.
Speaking of Pearsons, being that they’re from the Panaca area, a few of them raced. Axel (David’s cousin) took his Purvines Racing Beta to sixth overall after running fifth for a while then getting lost for a few moments. Axel’s younger sister Maggie won Women A/B for the sixth time in this, her first season, to sew up that class championship. This race last year, of course, was her first National. Unlike Caselli, however, she plans to ride the finale in Lucerne Valley, California, but instead of her usual Western Designs Racing TM 144 EN, she’s considering riding the 250 EN (two-stroke). —Mark Kariya
MX Nationals Wrap-Up
The 2013 Lucas Oil Motocross Championship is officially over, and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto proved to be the best racer on the track. The dominant and fit Kawasaki racer was able to bring the heat weekend after weekend, and despite strong challenges from Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey and several other top finishers, Villopoto kept his focus and took the title. Likewise, AmSoil/ Factory Connection’s Eli Tomac did what he needed to do in the 250 class, putting in a strong and consistent effort to grab the Championship over a motivated Ken Roczen. We’ll miss watching the races each weekend, but it’s clear that these racers—as well as their mechanics, team managers and all of the other support personnel—need a break. Don’t worry, though, because Supercross will be here before you know it!
Service Honda CR125AF Eye Candy!
Everyone loves a beautiful motorcycle, no matter the cost and the Dirt Rider Facebook fans haven’t been shy on how they feel about the Service Honda CR125 AF, a $12,000 two-stroke in a modern Honda CRF250R chassis. The pretty silver machine has reached a lot of eyes via the social giant and has generated a lot of feedback. Why? Well, it’s an interesting motorcycle, it’s a two-stroke and it looks good. We love hearing what you readers think, so keep the comments coming—we read every one of them. If you missed the Service Honda web test and video, you can check it out at http://www.dirtrider.com/features/service-honda-cr125af/. And if you don’t like Dirt Rider Magazine on Facebook, what are you waiting for? Also don’t forget to subscribe to the Dirt Rider Magazine YouTube page (www.youtube.com/dirtridermagazine) and check the website frequently to stay current on the latest fun happenings.
Speaking of fun, the SmartCarb testing is continuing and we are learning more every time we hit the trails aboard our KTM 300 XC project bike. We have more rides scheduled and will give the full report after we’ve put a ton more hours on the previously unproven SmartCarb. Hopefully we see you out on the trails!
What does the Dirt Rider staff do when we go on vacation? Well, Associate Editor Kris Keefer goes riding, of course! Keefer is in Colorado this week riding at Two Rivers Racing in Milliken and also at Thunder Valley MX Park in Lakewood. He’s putting time on our 2013 Honda CRF450R long haul bike before it goes back to American Honda. Speaking of which, next week is the long awaited 2014 Honda CRF250R and CRF450R press introduction. Check back to www.dirtrider.com late next week for first impressions on the 2014 CRF250R and 2014 CRF450R!
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KTM’s New Freeride 250R
Across the pond, KTM has just released an all-new model: The KTM Freeride 250 R. The interesting thing about this 2014 is not that it follows KTM’s pioneering Freeride chassis setup, but the fact that it’s a two-stroke. We don’t know much about this bike yet as it’s not available in the U.S., but from what we can tell the claimed 203-pound weight and six-speed motor combination would make for one wickedly fun trail machine. Stay tuned as we learn more about this bike, and hopefully we can get our hands on one to test!
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world. In the meantime, ride hard!