The Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area only gets a few days of rain each year—one reason it’s considered a desert. But snow? That’s really rare! The last time it snowed significantly is believed to be in 2010.
Now we can add 2021 to that shortlist as the Desert Motorcycle Club’s 54th Annual Winter Classic featured quite a bit of the white stuff that started falling during the Youth awards on Saturday afternoon, continuing through the evening. By the time the sun came up Sunday morning, the entire desert floor around North Anderson Dry Lake was white, and when the fog lifted, one could see much of the surrounding area was also blanketed.
For racers, the prospect of a dust-free day in the desert left them practically giddy, but the goal was the same: get out front and stay there.
That plan worked perfectly for 3 Bros./Hatch Racing Husqvarna’s Dalton Shirey, the defending series champ who led from the bomb to the checkered flag aboard his P-Worx/FMF/Troy Lee Designs-supported FX 450. Beta teammates Joe Wasson and Zane Roberts rounded out the podium.
With the lack of dust, Shirey found it just as important to get a good start and get away quickly because with snow covering much of the trail, he noticed he wasn’t looking as far ahead, and his competitors were probably doing the same.
“There was about one or two tracks that went through the actual course (likely made by spectators or club pre-riders). Everything off that was virgin [and covered with snow in a number of areas]. It was super-difficult to follow the course because you were looking kind of more down in front of you instead of far up the trail because the snow is kind of hiding everything,” Shirey said.
His strategy worked well, and he completed the 74 miles in two hours, 17 minutes and 25 seconds.
Despite having shoulder surgery in the off-season and having minimal time on his Kenda/Motul/Fly Racing 480 RR, Wasson took advantage of his good start that saw him fourth after the bomb. “I wasn’t expecting to get top 10 today,” he confessed. “All the improvements we’ve made on our bikes and switching to the 480s, it was a drastic change in how much better they were this year. I just got into second and was like, ‘Okay, everything’s feeling pretty good.’ I really worked on my breathing and stuff and just calmed down. I got in my groove and just rode it to the finish. I was really impressed by how well everything held together with my shoulder.” His total time was 2:18:46.
FMF/Rekluse/Klim-backed Roberts found it a disadvantage to follow in the snow as the bike ahead would throw huge amounts of the white stuff and make goggles nearly useless. “I think I started like eighth or something and by the time I got to third, I had zero tear-offs left,” he shared.
But perhaps more important was nearly a week of testing the team did recently to get suspension dialed. “Every [factory] Beta was on the podium today so that shows what we did worked well,” he pointed out. “We’re so far ahead of where we were last year, especially with running the 480 instead of the 430s.”
After running second in the early stages, Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Preston Campbell settled for best-to-date fourth followed by Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Justin Morgan—back at it for the whole season for first time since 2017. Champion Adventures Honda CRF450L-mounted Nic Garvin claimed sixth.
Having won Pro 250 twice last year, class sophomore Corbin McPherson knew he had the speed to challenge Beta’s class champion, Cole Conatser, and he got the season off to a winning start.
“Today I just focused on riding smooth and working on my own race and not letting the other riders get to me,” McPherson said. “Once we got to that second loop and the more technical stuff, I was able to catch a flow and make some more passes.”
Besides besting Conatser for the class win, McPherson managed to pass his way to an impressive seventh overall aboard his Garrett Off-Road Racing/Kenda/Fly Racing-backed Husqvarna FC 250. After a get-off, Conatser settled for second in class and 11th overall with newcomer Trevor Hunter third on his 1-800-DENT-DOC YZ250F.
Purvines Racing Yamaha rider Nick Burson returned to the Nationals to take eighth overall followed by SLR Honda-mounted David Kamo, who was reportedly hampered by a crash. JS Buchanan Trucking/Chidester Transport Racing Yamaha’s Jim Herrero rounded out the top 10 overall. CN
Desert Motorcycle Club’s 54th Annual Winter Classic
Lucerne Valley, California
RESULTS (January 24, 2021)
OVERALL (Top 10)
Click here for complete 2021 Hare & Hound Round One results.