Defending Champion Russell Pearson kicked off the AMA/FMF Racing National Hare & Hound Series with a seemingly effortless win at the 39th Annual Winter Classic, the Walt Baehr Memorial, put on by the Desert Motorcycle Club near Lucerne Valley, California, yesterday.
After following Honda racers Mike Childress and Steve Hengeveld to the bomb, Pearson quickly found better lines and motored by both within a few miles. From there, he simply stretched his lead despite one crash on his Montclair Yamaha/Zip-Ty Racing/Moose-sponsored YZ450F, winning by a couple minutes over former champ Destry Abbott, who rode his Team Green/Pro Circuit/THOR-backed KX450F in a National for the first time. Ty Davis, another former champ and Pearson's teammate, took third.
"It's nice to begin [the season] like that," Pearson said. "Do your homework, get your bike working good, and it comes together.
"The second loop, they got us in some gnarly stuff," he said. "It was like an enduro. It was definitely National-caliber."
Childress ended up fourth on his Berkely Honda/Precision Concepts/O'Neal XR650R. Precision Concepts/Renthal/MSR CRF450X-mounted Hengeveld passed KTM's Matt Gosnell almost within sight of the finish for fifth, with Gosnell trying to retaliate and stuff his way back past as they climbed up a rock section. Unfortunately for Gosnell, there wasn't enough room, and he had to settle for sixth.