Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Ricky Brabec had a minor dilemma on his hands the day before the So Cal National Hare & Hound near Lucerne Valley, California, round four of the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series: Go with the tried-and-true CRF450X or the brand-new (and still under development) CRF450RX?

Due to the So Cal Motorcycle Club laying out three different loops of 40, 40 and 21 miles in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area for its race, defending series champ Brabec opted for old faithful since he wasn’t positive the ‘RX would go a full 40 miles at race speed in that fast, sandy first loop.

With that decision made, he lined up against a strong field that included FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Taylor Robert for the first time since the opening round in January. Though he’d been riding and training for a good month or so since getting his doctor’s okay, no one knew how fast he’d really be after his crash at King of the Motos and the surgeries that followed.

But Robert was determined to give 100 percent and put himself among the leaders after the bomb, though it didn’t take too long before Brabec had ol’ faithful in front, and he found himself with a 33-second lead—and plenty of VP in his IMS tank—over Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Jacob Argubright at the end of that first loop. Robert held third at that point aboard his 450 XC-F, another 49 seconds back.

Lucerne National Hare & Hound 2017
Current series champ Ricky Brabec showed no mercy as he attacked the course, extending his lead with each mile until crashing near the end. He was still able to limp to the finish almost three minutes ahead of runner-up Jacob Argubright, though he then went to the hospital to get checked. The initial diagnosis was a pinched nerve.Photo by Mark Kariya

Brabec added more than two and a half minutes to that lead on the more technical second loop with Argubright still second on his FX 450 and Purvines DA8 Racing Yamaha YZ450FX-mounted Gary Sutherlin third, though Brabec said later, “Loop two was actually more technical than the third, I thought. I wasn’t sure of the lead gap I had so I was pushing and [still] just playing it smart.”

He stayed in front to the finish, despite a huge crash near the end, saying, “Midway through the third loop I tagged a rock with the brake pedal and it got bent under the clutch cover, forcing it to drag the rest of the way. It eventually got so hot, it just stopped working completely so about one mile before the finish, I hit a [deeply rutted] quad [turn track] and it just put me over the front so fast! Due to no rear brake, I had no chance to slow down so it was a rough finish, but I’m excited to come across the line with a good lead.

“Now I’m just sore and recovering for the next round.”

The 30 points padded his series points lead as he now has 115.

Argubright arrived all alone in second—his best finish of the season so far—which gave him another 25 points to lay claim to third in points at 80 after four rounds.

Brabec wasn’t the only one who went down during the race. In fact, crashes were a common denominator among the top three as Argubright said: “We got to Means [Dry Lake] and [Brabec] kind of pulled me because it was super-dusty, After that on the second loop, I went really good, then towards North Anderson [Dry Lake] I just came over a rise and clipped something and I rolled down the hill. It knocked the wind out of me and ripped my [radiator] shroud off. It took me awhile to get going [again]; I had to collect my marbles. Then Taylor passed me—Taylor stopped to make sure I was all right [first]—and I followed him for a little bit.”

Even runner-up Sutherlin also biffed, which was about the last thing he wanted to do after his huge get-off at last week’s WORCS race left him with a dislocated shoulder and foot peg to the groin.

“I knew I had to just salvage what I could today,” he admitted. “I didn’t have the strength in this shoulder to hold it wide open across the valleys. I had a big wreck on the second loop and hit my head really hard and was seeing Tweety Birds there for a while!”

Sutherlin lost some ground in the points chase but remains second at 97.

Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts CRF450X rider Justin Morgan rode well to fourth, equaling his best finish to date from round two.

Though Robert was fifth to the finish, he was later penalized for a course infraction, moving him to seventh, officially, behind Purvines DA8 Racing Yamaha teammates Axel Pearson and Nick Burson. Robert later admitted, “I found out pretty quickly that my speed wasn’t where it needed to be, though. I dropped back to fourth then worked my way back up to second. After that, I started making too many mistakes and hit the ground a few times and dropped back again.”

After a last-place start and a derailed chain, City Service Racing CRF450X-mounted Nic Garvin went on a rampage to finish eighth followed by Steven Erectors, Inc. Husqvarna rider Taylor Stevens and SRT Yamaha’s Ryan Smith.

Though he’s been absent from the desert for two years, Fasthouse YZ250 rider Chance Fullerton rode like he hadn’t missed a race and topped the FMF Pro 250 division, ending up 12th overall and 17 seconds ahead of Tyler Lynn’s Chidester Transport Racing YZ250 who was 13th. Jordan Gamboa was third in class and 14th overall.

Lucerne National Hare & Hound 2017
Despite being absent from the desert scene for two years, Chance Fullerton put himself in the thick of the fight to come away with the FMF Pro 250 victory.Photo by Mark Kariya

The Women A class once again saw KTM 250 XC-F riders Britney Gallegos and Kacy Martinez-Coy battle it out with FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Martinez-Coy gaining the upper hand on the second loop for her third win of the season and 115 points. Round-two winner Gallegos has 101 while Chidester Transport Racing YZ250F-mounted Stephanie Woolslayer sits in third with 74 points after her third-place ride at Lucerne.

Lucerne National Hare & Hound 2017
After battling round-two winner Britney Gallegos for the first 40 miles, Kacy Martinez-Coy finally got in front to stay on loop two and recorded her third triumph of the season.Photo by Mark Kariya
Lucerne National Hare & Hound 2017
Announcer George Antill entertained the Girls podium finishers that included (from left) runner-up Brooke Olivas, winner (and sister) Laci Olivas and third-place Kassidy Laswell. Laci Olivas not only won for the second time this season, she also overalled the combined Micro Mini/Girls race.Photo by Mark Kariya