When KTM cut back its budget for desert racing at the end of 2010, David Pearson came close to joining cousin Russell Pearson in the ranks of retired racers.
But the 2009 Best in the Desert American Off-Road Racing Series Champion got a new lease on life when fellow Nevadan Ron Purvines offered him a ride on a new team he was putting together for 2011, so Pearson signed on.
It proved to be a good move as he rewarded his new boss by winning the THR Motorsports Parker 250 in Parker, Arizona, on Saturday, even without the help of co-rider Carl Maassberg (who had to leave at the last minute when his uncle was hurt in an accident just after the race's start).
The opening round of the BITD season defied economic doubts with renewed interest, possibly sparked by the $2500 winner's prize offered by Purvines. Besides his Purvines Racing team of Maassberg and Pearson, THR Motorsports fielded two teams (Frank Cimmarusti/Shane Esposito and Ricky Brabec/Mike Childress), Zip-Ty Racing Husqvarna came out with Nick Burson/David Kamo and RPP Racing privateers Jerry Parsons/Anthony Westbay set out to defend the number-one plate they earned last year. And there were several other solid privateer teams just in Open Pro.
Off the start, Esposito sprinted away on his Hoosier Precision Machining/Chiron/Klen Laundry-sponsored CRF450X, though he ran into problems later on the 72-mile loop.
"I want to say it was around mile 55 when we were on the pole line [road]," he recalled. "You're on some ups and downs in the canyons on the ridges, and there's some little lofters. I just got carried away and launched the next one into the face. It was about a 30-foot drop down into it. I know I closed my eyes when I hit and I think that's what did it."
"It" was a blown shock, leading to Esposito parking it rather than risk continuing with that handicap.
Pearson inherited the lead at that point and pulled away on the Countrywide Estate Planning/Berkeley Honda/O'Neal CRF450X. Losing his partner at the last minute didn't seem to affect him.
"I kind of talked to Carl before the race and I told him if it was a really close race, I'd probably stay on [the bike]," Pearson revealed. "He was fine with that.
"It was good - I needed the exercise anyway for the [AMA National] hare & hound series," he joked.
Pearson would end up with a winning margin of more than 16 minutes, unofficially, completing the three laps in four hours, 21 minutes, 19 seconds.
That left a couple teams to battle for the runner-up spot, but ultimately Brabec/Childress claimed that in 4:37:29 on the other THR Motorsports Open Pro entry, though their ride was not without incident. (The Burson/Kamo Husky duo faded from the spot after running out of gas three times on the TXC 511 that they'd taken delivery of on Tuesday, and the tank's design will make building a larger cell with a quick-fill system a challenge.)
Childress reported, "I was able to pass the N1 team [of Parsons/Westbay] and gap them a little bit, and then I made a poor goggle [lens] selection in the morning and I chose a tinted lens. Coming down the rocky washes, I couldn't really see the rocks that well so he got me back. But we put on a show for the spectators in the Parker Python; we did some supercross passes and had some fun with each other. But I was able to [pass and] gap them again back out to [the alternate pit at] Midway."
Brabec then got back on the bike but ran into a lapped ATV, crashing and breaking the clutch perch. Despite the handicap of riding the final lap without use of the clutch, they managed to finish quickly enough to stay ahead of third-place finishers Parsons/Westbay on their Fourline Motorsports/Dunlop/FMF WR450F.
Riding for the first time with the number one plate, Westbay admitted, "It felt like I had a big target on my back!
"Jerry started [but] he was feeling sick and we had a little problem. I was supposed to get on a Midway the first time, but I had a little problem with a ranger and he had to go all the way around [the loop]. I don't know what happened to Esposito and those guys, but Jerry came in third overall. I hopped on the bike and Kamo was right behind me.
"I just kept a good pace. I didn't want to screw up too much and waste too much energy [since I was] doing two straight laps." They finished in 4:38.25, unofficially.
Though THR came up a bit short in its bid for overall honors, the event's title sponsor came up with the Open Expert triumph thanks to the efforts of Garrett Osteen/Tyler Renshaw who finished a commendable fourth overall on their Chiron/Klen Laundry/Dunlop CRF450X after spending the majority of the day holding class runners-up Clint Braun/Trevor Ricci at bay.
"We had the last pick in our [class] so we were dead last off the start," Renshaw shared. "Garrett came into Midway in second [behind Purvines Racing's Braun/Ricci] and by the time I got to the Python [at the end of the first lap] I'd already passed into first. Then we just had to maintain and run a good race and not make any mistakes." Their unofficial 4:39:57 put them just over three minutes ahead of Over 30 Pro winners David Fry/Jason Trubey and more than five minutes ahead of Open Expert runners-up Braun/Ricci, both of those teams belonging to the Purvines Racing squad.
Trubey said, "We both had a great ride today. I don't think either of us laid it down, the bike's still like brand-new--we just went for it, pinned it!"
Chris Brown/Max Eddy, Jr. claimed fourth Open Pro and seventh overall on their Reno Racing KX450F followed by the first Quad Pro then Over 30 Pro runners-up Rex Cameron/Michael Johnson on their Unique Products CRF450X then the second Quad Pro team.