After a run of bad luck and faced with elimination in the chase for the AMA National Hare & Hound Championship, Russ Pearson finally had things go his way at the Viking's M.C.'s Virgin Voyage and won round five of the series at Lucerne Valley, California, April 23. The defending AMA/FMF Racing National Hare & Hound Series Champion hadn't won since round one, also at Lucerne, and seemed stuck in a rut with three consecutive thirds. That meant that if he finished third or worse at the Vikings National, he'd also lose the title.
The Zip-Ty Racing/Montclair Yamaha/Moose YZ450F-mounted rider, Pearson, put in one of the hardest efforts he'd ever mustered and fought back challenge after challenge by Team Green's Destry Abbott, the current series points leader. Abbott's motivation was simple - winning the race would clinch the 2006 championship with two rounds remaining, and he rode as if it were the final round of the series on his Pro Circuit/Dunop/O'Neal KX450F.
After getting a third-place start behind Pearson and Honda's Kendall Norman, Abbott spent most of the race swapping the lead with Pearson, and their battle got hotter as the miles wound down. A mistake by one immediately saw the other jump in front, though it wasn't for long, especially with the amount of virgin terrain the Vikings employed. That led to desperate leaps into unknown rock piles, spills and other indicators of riding on the ragged edge.
"It was just hairy; I don't like riding that hard!" Pearson said.
"I wanted to win today," a disappointed Abbott said. "It just didn't work out." Indeed, Pearson made the race-clinching move a few miles from the finish, and Abbott ran out of chances to retaliate.
Norman had a good view of their fight from his spot in third aboard his Precision Concepts/Honda Pro Oils/O'Neal CRF450X. The top three ended up with a substantial margin over the rest of the field, with Team Green's Brian Brown snagging fourth from KTM's David Pearson, the round four winner, in the closing miles.
Russ Pearson's triumph keeps his hopes for repeating as champ alive, though it won't be easy as he must win the final two rounds to do so