Lucerne National Hare And Hound Round 1 Race Report 2017

Ricky Brabec Barely Edges Out Taylor Robert for National Hare And Hound Win

After poor starts for both, two-time and reigning Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Champion Ricky Brabec and series newcomer Taylor Robert spent both 40-mile loops at the Desert Motorcycle Club’s 50th Annual Winter Classic near Lucerne Valley, California, swapping the lead.

Lucerne Hare & Hound Round 1 2017
A little over a week after returning from the Dakar Rally, defending H&H champ Ricky Brabec kicked off his AMA campaign by winning the opening round in perfect conditions at the Johnson Valley OHV Area.Photo by Mark Kariya

Rain before and during the opening round of the 2017 series eliminated the dust usually associated with desert racing and those two plus Jacob Argubright, Gary Sutherlin and Joe Wasson ended up in a lead pack that freight-trained through the rocks, whoops and hills as close as the opening lap of a Supercross main. In fact, all five took a pull out front at one time or another.

In the final miles, though, it came down to Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Brabec and Robert of the FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team, with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Argubright in an equally pitched battle for third with Purvines DA8 Racing Yamaha’s Gary Sutherlin.

“I just rode easy the first loop and got the hang of it, and we all threw down on the second loop,” Robert said. After all, it was only his second-ever hare & hound.

Lucerne Hare & Hound Round 1 2017
Taylor Robert lost the lead here a few miles from the finish but was close enough for one last-ditch effort at the KTM Finish Chute, making the outcome uncertain for almost an hour. Officials eventually determined Brabec beat Robert to the line by inches in what must be the closest finish in H&H history.Photo by Mark Kariya

“The last 10 miles, Taylor and I were going back and forth,” Brabec said. “I saw camp and I knew where we were, and I knew I didn’t have much time. I knew whoever was at the bottom of the [last] valley first was going to win because of the high speeds.”

So, when Robert drifted wide at the top of a rise where the course turned right, Brabec dove to the inside that was nearly physical.

“I had to do that,” Brabec claimed after repeating as the opening round victor and earning the $1000 #fastesthounds National Hare & Hound Association (NHHA) winner’s share of the purse. “It was clean, but it had to be done in order to win.”

That didn’t prevent Robert from making one last-ditch pass attempt as they reached the KTM Finish Chute, but he ran out of room and had to settle for second by mere inches in what may have been the closest finish in hare & hound history.

The fight for third was just as intense and came down to Argubright and Sutherlin, with 2015 winner Sutherlin managing to make the final pass for the final podium spot, Argubright settling for fourth. Wasson slipped back a bit to finish fifth. However, they didn’t go away empty-handed as the National Hare & Hound Association (NHHA) has instituted new cash award to recognize those who finish in the top 10 overall. Thus, Argubright, Wasson and Purvines DA8 Racing Yamaha’s Nick Burson earned big #triplethreat checks from Rick’s Custom Shutters and Blinds for finishing fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Burson’s teammate Axel Pearson was seventh followed by Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Honda’s Justin Morgan and STI Honda-mounted Nic Garvin to pick up the #upandcoming checks from Rick’s Custom Shutter and Blinds. Finally, SRT Yamaha rider Ryan Smith got $100 #chidestertenthplace money for rounding out the top 10 overall.

After winning the Super Mini championship in the Youth series a couple years ago, Braydon Bland moved to the big bikes and continued his evolution as a racer by entering the FMF Pro 250 class. After finding himself in third as he started the last loop, he caught the pair of Chidester Transport Racing Yamaha teammates ahead and overtook them to triumph in his debut, finishing 11th overall. Tyler Lynn held of for second with Daemon Wooslayer third, placing 13th and 19th overall, respectively.

Lucerne Hare & Hound Round 1 2017
The FMF Pro 250 podium (from left): runner-up Tyler Lynn, first-time winner Braydon Bland and third-place Daemon Woolslayer.Photo by Mark Kariya

Making her desert debut was Taylor Robert’s FMF KTM teammate Kacy Martinez, who adapted quickly thanks in part to the wet conditions. She earned $500 #womenofnhha from Elegant Cabinetry with Britney Gallegos and Rachel Gutish second and third, respectively.

Lucerne Hare & Hound Round 1 2017
After a pair of GNCC championships, KTM has assigned Kacy Martinez to the desert (as well as EnduroCross). She won her desert debut easily, signaling what could be a long season for her competition.Photo by Mark Kariya