Looking to tune up for next week's WORCS kick-off, FMF/KTM's Kurt Caselli decided to enter the Desert Motorcycle Club's 43rd Winter Classic at the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area outside of Lucerne Valley, California, round one of the AMA Racing/Kenda National Hare & Hound Championship Series, on January 24. Even though it'd been six years since he last raced a National, he proved he hadn't forgotten how to go fast in the desert and led a one-two for the team, with early leader David Kamo the runner-up and five-time series champ Destry Abbott taking third for Monster Energy Kawasaki.
Conditions were perfect with storms earlier in the week giving way to plenty of sunshine and almost no dust. Unlike most races in Lucerne, a fairly long section of snow and mud gave competitors a different challenge besides the usual cross-grain, whoops, rocks and treacherous downhills.
"I've been wanting to put that on the list of accomplishments - to win a National Hare & Hound," Caselli said. "The best I ever did was, I think, second back in '99 or 2000-a long time ago. I actually hadn't raced a National in six years so this was my first one in a long time."
After getting to the trail after the bomb first, Caselli watched as Kamo, Abbott and JCR Honda's Kendall Norman all went past, but he simply sat back, enjoyed the show and bided his time. Kamo led much of the first 40-mile loop with Norman speeding to the point before it ended.
But Norman knew it wasn't going to be his day after spending most of the week sick in bed and wasn't surprised when Kamo, Abbott and Caselli got around in the early miles of the second 40-mile loop. A bit of confusion about where the course was found Kamo turning the wrong way, leaving Caselli up front to stay, and he finished several minutes ahead of his teammate with Abbott a short distance behind.
Norman held on for fourth ahead of Simi Valley Kawasaki's Jacob Argubright while RPM Racing Team KTM-mounted Brenden Ritzman-another unfamiliar face in the desert looking for a pre-WORCS workout-claimed sixth. JCR Honda's Quinn Cody, FMF/KTM Off-Road Factory Race Team's David Pearson, Kawasaki-mounted privateer Robert Underwood and JCR Honda's Colton Udall rounded out the top 10.