Taylor Robert Takes Victory At National Hare & Hound Debut

Round 5 AMA National Hare & Hound Race Report 2016 | Panaca, NV

It’s contract time for many riders and the best way to ensure you get the best deal for next year is to have a strong résumé filled with solid results.

That’s the plan Taylor Robert followed when he signed up for the Silver State Trailblazers’ Purvines Racing Muley Run, round five of the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series in Caliente, Nevada.

And his flag-to-finish victory guarantees him some ammo when it comes time to sit down with potential sponsors for next year’s program.

Panaca NHHA 2016
With contract time coming up, versatile Taylor Robert tried a hare & hound National for the first time, though the Caliente bomb run was unlike most H&Hs. He made it look easy, leading from start to finish, and opening up the possibility of a run for the title next year as he looks to staying closer to home.Photo by Mark Kariya

“I’m just feeling out my options,” the Red Bull/FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team star explained. “It’s that time of the year. My contract with KTM’s actually up at the end of this year so I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing the next few years and this was kind of one of those deals.”

For the record, Robert grew up and still lives in the Arizona desert, yet this was the very first hare & hound National he’s even attempted, adding, “I’m trying something I’ve kind of always wanted to do but never really had a good opportunity to. Maybe it’s something to look forward to next year. I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to Europe and do those races or not; that’s still kind of up in the air.”

What wasn’t in the air at the popular Muley Run (with about 400 total entries, the most in race history and the biggest turnout to date for the season, according to NHHA’s Jacob Michna) was Robert’s dominating ride. Bonanza Plumbing/FMF KTM-supported Gary Sutherlin had a front-row seat after his second-place start that lasted all the way to the finish and said, “He rode really, really good today; I was impressed. He pushed really hard the first loop and gapped me a little bit. It took me a little bit to get going and I started moving pretty good on the second loop. I had a couple little stupid falls today. We got close a couple times today—I got in his dust—but hats off to him; he rode a great race today.”

This was Sutherlin’s first race back in five months after losing his spleen, which happened after complications from a practice accident late last year.

Third belonged to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Jacob Argubright, who spent the first of the three separate loops staying away from the creek crossings as best he could. Losing round two when he drowned his bike a couple miles from the finish is still a fresh memory, after all.

But the water wasn’t what held him back this time; it was silly crashes.

“I had a little bit of a rough day,” he admitted. “This canyon [coming down at the end of the first loop], I crashed four times coming down it. Just not my day and I’m usually good at rocks; I usually flow through them!

“I was trying as hard as I could, but Gary and Taylor were ripping!”

Panaca NHHA 2016
Riding out of the same FMF KTM pit, Taylor Robert (left) and Gary Sutherlin ran 1-2 all day for an impressive result from the duo, especially considering it was Robert’s first H&H and Sutherlin’s first National in five months after having his spleen removed.Photo by Mark Kariya

Then, on the third and final loop, he lost the front end, fell and ended up somehow ripping a fork seal out, dumping the fluid onto the front rotor and leaving him with only a usable rear brake. He nursed it in to the finish, holding off first Zip-Ty Racing Husqvarna’s Dalton Shirey (who ran out of fuel not far from the finish and salvaged 13th Pro, 16th overall) and then Purvines Racing Beta’s Axel Pearson who closed to five seconds behind at the finish.

Pearson’s teammate Nick Burson rode in for fifth followed by Skyler Howes, Ryan Smith, Justin Morgan (who drowned out in one of the creek crossings at the start and rampaged back from last after finally getting his bike running again), FMF Pro 250 winner Joe Wasson and Max Eddy, Jr.

Defending series champ Ivan Ramirez’s return to racing after missing two rounds with a wrist injury didn’t go as hoped, the FMF KTM star crashing hard and finally regrouping to finish 10th Pro and 12th overall.

Johnny Campbell Racing Honda’s Ricky Brabec was a no-show as he was in Chile where he’d finish seventh for Team HRC Rally in the Atacama Rally. But he remains the series points leader with 110 to Argubright’s 98 while Smith still holds third at 78 followed by Wasson (71) and Pearson (64).

Two rounds now remain as the race in Yerington, Nevada, that was to have served as round seven has been cancelled. Round six will still take place on September 17-18 at Red Mountain, California, and the series finale is still October 22-23 in Lucerne Valley, California.

Panaca NHHA 2016
Since the Muley Run paid not only National points but AMA District 37, MRAN and USRA points, D-37 racer Sage Vincent made the trip and ended up winning Open A, finishing first A rider as well at 11th overall.Photo by Mark Kariya
Panaca NHHA 2016
After finishing a close second at round four to first-time hare & hounder Britney Gallegos, Nicole Bradford returned to her winning ways in Women A for the fourth time this season. She finished 44th overall, besting runner-up Gallegos by some 15 minutes and 33 positions.Photo by Mark Kariya
Panaca NHHA 2016
The Caliente area has great scenery as well as a good variety of trails.Photo by Mark Kariya