Ramirez Earns Race Win at Hare & Hound Round 1
Kurt Caselliís legacy lives on and will continue to do so if Ivan Ramirez has anything to do with it. All the hard work they did last year is paying off now. The countless miles of riding, the hours in the gym or on bicycles, the many meals they ate together and even the practical jokes that Caselli loved to play appear to have resulted in Ramirez stepping his game up and taking that first National win at the Desert Motorcycle Clubís 47th Annual Winter Classic, round one of the AMA/SRT Hare & Hound National Championship Series.
Ironically, it will likely be the last National held on land east of Bessemer Mine Road in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area outside of Lucerne Valley, California. The area was transferred by Congress to the United States Marine Corps as an expanded training area, and after the club received notice on Tuesday that it wouldnít receive the requisite permits for the race, much frantic communications between the club, the BLM and the Secretary of the Navy resulted in a last-minute reprieve on Friday.
Between that and it being the first National of the season, people came out in droves to race or just to watch, and they witnessed FMF/KTM Factory Off-road Racing Teamís Ramirez lead from start to finish on the 80-mile-long tour of all that the area offers. He insisted he played it safe and kept it on two wheels while thinking about his guardian angel throughout the race: ďI was thinking about Kurt during the race because I remember we used to work on stuff. I would mess up a little bit and heíd say [to] do this or do that. I felt like for sure he was looking from above and making sure everythingís good.Ē
But while Ramirez almost casually controlled the race from the front, it was a different story behind him with several fighting for the runner-up spot. At first, it was Purvines Racing Betaís duo of Justin Morrow and Nick Burson running just behind Ramirez, but series irregulars Ricky Brabec and Gary Sutherlin soon worked past them and held second at one time or another.
Unfortunately for Bonanza Plumbing-backed Sutherlin, his borrowed KTM 450 XC-F had lived a hard life as a magazine test bike and it started to seize once, freed up and then clattered to a final stop about halfway through the race as he closed on Ramirez.
That opened the door for Brabec, but he ended up snapping the front brake caliper off his Precision Concepts KX450F and later breaking off the tip of his rear-brake pedal. With the courseís many severe rocky downhills, that wasnít a recipe for success and he slowed, salvaging fifth at the finish.
In the end, second place came down to Burson and Morrow, Burson sneaking up on his teammate in the final miles. But when Burson chopped the throttle for a road crossing, Morrow held it open and retook second, fighting off one last charge as they blasted into the finish chute.
Axel Pearson made it a Purvines Racing Beta 2-3-4 with Brabec fifth ahead of Vet Expert winner Morgan Crawford. Blais Racing Services KTMís Skyler Howes claimed seventh overall and sixth Pro followed by 250cc Expert winner Ryan Smith, Open Expert winner Brad Pace and returning-from-injury Brandon Prieto.
1. Ivan Ramirez (KTM 450 XC-F)
2. Justin Morrow (Beta 498 RR)
3. Nick Burson (Beta 498 RR)
4. Axel Pearson (Beta 450 RR)
5. Ricky Brabec (Kawasaki KX450F)
6. Morgan Crawford (KTM 250 XC)
7. Skyler Howes (KTM 300 XC)
8. Ryan Smith (Yamaha YZ250)
9. Brad Pace (Honda CRF450X)
10. Brandon Prieto (KTM 450 XC-F)