AMA Kenda International Hare & Hound, Round 1
A year of the National Hare and Hound Association has reinvigorated the AMA Racing/Kenda National Hare & Hound Championship Series. At least that’s the way it appeared at the opening round of the series on Sunday, January 23, at the Desert Motorcycle Club’s 44th Winter Classic National in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area outside of Lucerne Valley, California. Despite a still slow economy, a significant increase in entries gathered, many trying their hand at desert racing for the first time--or the first time in a long time.
That was the story with Kurt Caselli of the FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team. Though he’d grown up racing in the desert, he’d only raced desert sporadically since turning pro. In fact, he’d last raced the series full-time about 10 years ago, he recalled. However, he won this race last year when he used it to tune up for the following weeks WORCS opener, and for most of the race it appeared likely that he’d repeat that performance as he led from the bomb.
“I actually got a really bad jump and got around everybody and pulled the holeshot, which was good--it was important; it was real dusty today and not real windy,” he said.
As he set the pace, former series champ David Pearson gave chase and proved to be the only one able to match Caselli’s pace, the two slowly pulling away from the field.
“Caselli was riding really good today. We were almost going back and forth, but I never quite passed him,” the Purvines Racing Honda-mounted racer reported. On the third and final loop of 15 very technical miles, he added, “I got lost twice--and he said he got lost, too--but I got lost twice and finally found the course again then still tried to charge as hard as I could to the finish because I knew that always, anything can happen.”
And anything did.
“I just saw him and he gave me a thumbs-up,” Pearson revealed. “He was just cruising. I guess [the motor] blew up right after that.”
That happened about a mile before the finish, though Caselli claimed he didn’t know what happened. What he did know was that Pearson went by followed by Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Destry Abbott, Kawasaki of Simi Valley’s Jacob Argubright and John Burr Racing Kawasaki-mounted Justin Morrow as he pushed his expired machine the final mile over loose, sandy soil up a slight grade to the finish, earning fifth for his effort.
“My goal coming into this first round was a podium,” Abbott admitted. “Coming into the [last] valley, it was kind of a big surprise to look to my right with not even a mile to go and see Kurt pushing his bike. I felt bad for Kurt--he’s a good guy and [if he’d won] that would’ve put me third so I lucked out.”
After a five-kick start, Argubright had his work cut out for him. “I was in a hurry all day,” he said. About 20th at the bomb, he passed most of his competition on the first loop, coming into the pits in fifth. It took him until the last loop to pass Morrow--who, on the other hand, enjoyed a great start and ran third for much of the race--to get into fourth, followed by racing past Caselli just before the finish to claim third.
“The first race of the year is to see where you’re at and where everybody else is at,” Caselli noted. “This is going to be a tough year by all means. There’s a lot of guys that are going really fast, that are really hungry.
“I’m looking forward to the next round. Hopefully if I get another start like that I can hold it ‘till the finish.”
For now, though, Pearson has the upper hand. In two races so far this year for his new team, he has two wins. “We worked really hard at it this week, training and getting the bike dialed in,” he said. “It’s all starting to come together.”
1. David Pearson (Honda CRF450X)
2. Destry Abbott (Kawasaki KX450F)
3. Jacob Argubright (Kawasaki KX450F)
4. Justin Morrow (Kawasaki KX450F)
5. Kurt Caselli (KTM 450 SX-F)
6. Ryan Kudla (Kawasaki KX450F)
7. Brad Pace (Honda CRF450X)
8. Colton Udall (Honda CRF450X)
9. Carl Maassberg (Honda CRF450X)
10. Ivan Ramirez (KTM 450 SX-F)