Two weeks ago, Russell Pearson (pictured) had no firm plans to compete in the AMA Racing National Hare & Hound Championship Series this year. And he didn't even have a bike to ride!
But when Chris Blais offered to prep a KTM 530 XC-F for Pearson a few days before the 42nd Winter Classic hosted by the Desert Motorcycle Club - round one of the series and held at its traditional location in the Johnson Valley Off Highway Vehicle Area outside of Lucerne Valley, California-the two-time series champion couldn't pass up the chance.
He's now glad he took Blais up on the opportunity, because he squeaked out a hard-fought victory over Red Bull KTM's David Kamo in his first National since the next-to-last round last year (which he won). Defending series champ Destry Abbott settled for third after two rear flats - one on each 40-plus-mile loop - kept his Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F from holding the lead.
"Dang, I don't want to have to work that hard!" Pearson exclaimed, describing the last few miles going back and forth with Kamo. Despite not racing or even riding much lately due to work and other commitments (like getting engaged), Pearson rarely backed down from any obstacle or challenge on his Blaisracing.com/GPR/Moose-backed machine. Even after a couple crashes, one of which left him with a black eye, he scrambled back into the lead on a very windy day.
Though he felt he's ridden better at Lucerne in the past, Kamo flirted with the lead throughout the race, evidence that the Red Bull KTM racer's first overall National triumph may not be far off. But, he said, "Destry was on a mission today; he went by both of us like nothing. If he hadn't had the flats, he would've won."
Ironically, Abbott claimed he hasn't suffered a flat tire during a race in five years, but they came back to haunt him viciously today. However, he owned a fairly comfortable lead over Zip-Ty Racing Husqvarna TC 510-mounted Gary Sutherlin, with Zip-Ty Racing boss Ty Davis fifth on his TC 450. David Pearson, the 2007 series champion, settled for sixth on his Red Bull KTM, reportedly still not fully recovered from a bout with the flu a couple days before.
Pearson still has no plans to contest the series.