2019 Johnson Valley Hare & Hound Race Report
“It’s a lot of work being a privateer, but I can’t believe [I’m starting the year off winning two races],” Jacob Argubright mused.
The Off-road Support Kawasaki rider had done quite a bit of testing with TBT Racing to get his new KX450 ready for the Desert Motorcycle Club’s 52nd Annual Winter Classic outside of Lucerne Valley, California, round 1 of the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series, presented by FMF.
In fact, if it hadn’t been for TBT getting Argubright an FMF exhaust, he was prepared to run the stocker: “I was going to jam [a spark arrestor] insert in [the stock muffler] to pass tech! ‘Tuner’ (TBT’s Travis Flateau), luckily, got me one because they didn’t have any [in stock at FMF]! I think Little D (FMF’s Donny Emler) was welding it up himself!”
Despite the last-minute mods, things worked out well for Argubright at the race. A somewhat mediocre start had him second-guessing himself, but things worked out and he managed to work into the lead and come out on top. Two-time champ Ricky Brabec returned to the H&H scene after being away for a year to concentrate on rallies, and one week after returning from Dakar, the Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda star finished second with Beta’s Joe Wasson third.
“Toward the middle of the first loop, I felt like I was so far back—I was top 10 and I had to get around people—and I didn’t pass into fourth until this valley [near the end of the 40-mile first loop],” Argubright explained. “I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ ”
But things worked out for privateer Argubright, marking a bright start to his year.
As for Brabec, he admitted he was somewhat surprised to finish second—both because this was his first National since the end of 2017 and he hadn’t practiced since getting back from Dakar the week before.
“Last year I trained for Dakar [almost exclusively],” Brabec said. “Last year I rode a little bit of motocross, hardly any enduro—I just took the year off to focus on rally. I wanted to come back [to the H&H Nationals] because last year was a lot of sitting around, a lot of thinking and kind of depression—you’re not doing anything [in between rallies]. I told Johnny I wanted to race Hare & Hounds this year and follow as much of the series as I can. I’m happy with second place [today]. I had a rough day; I was kind of riding all over the place. I felt squirrelly, but I’m happy to be on the podium.”
Wasson led much of the fast 40-mile first loop, but was satisfied with third-place points. He said, “I had her wide pretty much the whole first loop and led pretty much until 5 or 10 miles from the end, then Kendall [Norman] got by me—he was on fire, man! In the dust, I don’t know how he passed me [like he did] on a rocky road. I know he couldn’t see because as soon as he went by me, I couldn’t see!”
Defending champ Norman did lead at the end of the first loop and into the early miles of the more technical 40-mile second loop. Unfortunately for the Chocolate Mountain Ranch Honda-mounted privateer (riding last year’s championship-winning CRF450X, in fact), he hit something that tore the chain guide off, resulting in a derailed chain that wedged itself around the countershaft sprocket.
Since he wasn’t carrying tools, that could’ve spelled the end of his race, but fortunately for him, a spectator with tools happened to be close by and loaned him the necessary items. Despite the time lost, Norman was able to finish the race respectably in eighth.