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Taylor Robert Takes Another Win At Utah National Hare & Hound Round 6

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Taylor Robert had a confession after winning the X12 Virgin Ground Hare & Hound, hosted by the Buzzards Motorcycle Club in Plymouth, Utah. He revealed, “I have been [training for Six Days already]; since the last hare & hound I’ve only ridden my 450 [XC-F] once. I ride my 500 everywhere else—trying to get used to it, trying to get bike time on it and from here, I’m flying to Ohio for the Six Days training camp so I’ll be on my 500 for a few days out there. I basically have all of July and August to get ready for Six Days. We have that hare & hound in Panaca, [Nevada, between now and then, but it’s mostly Six Days prep from now on].

“Luckily for me, the 500’s real similar to the 450. The chassis and everything’s the same so I’ll just keep riding my 500 [most of the time] and show up to the races on my 450 until Six Days.”

You wouldn’t know he’d only ridden his 450 once since round five last month—coincidentally also in Utah, though farther south in Jericho—of the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series. It marked his second win in a row and of the year for the FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team rider, with Purvines DA8 Racing Yamaha-mounted Gary Sutherlin padding his series points lead by finishing second and Pearson Brothers Construction/Dynamic Dirt Suspension’s Tuffy Pearson making his first H&H National start in four years memorable with third place.

A new venue in the series and held entirely on a private ranch, the X12 was indeed run entirely on ground that had never been raced on before. The prospect of no whoops was universally welcomed, but there were downsides as well, the primary one being tall grass in the wide-open field sections hiding a number of obstacles that were off the racing line, but no top-level racer is going to ride in someone’s dust very long; he’ll swing wide at the first opportunity and look for a passing opportunity.

Granted, it’d be impossible to sweep an entire unmowed field for every possible danger, but many seemed to feel that just because a piece of land is available doesn’t mean it’s a good place to run a race.

More than a few people had race-ending incidents when they hit stuff they didn’t see or ended up in a pond that killed their bikes. And with the thick, silty dust in those opening miles in the fields, everyone sought clean air, leading to intense racing basically while running blind.

Early leader Tuffy Pearson exclaimed, “Man, today was gnarly! Battling Gary and Taylor and [my brother] Axel was the most insane thing I think I’ve ever done in my life! We were just all-out through grass [where] we couldn’t see anything in it as fast as we could go! Back and forth, back and forth.”

Sutherlin added, “I held it on as much as I wanted to, safely. Axel and Tuffy, it was nuts. I’ve never seen anybody go that fast through stuff [where you couldn’t see]. They were pinned!’

“I said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to do anything stupid right now,’ ” and he settled back to a comfortable, close fourth place.

Purvines DA8 Racing’s Axel Pearson stole the lead from Tuffy early and led until he crashed—twice within maybe a hundred yards—and forfeited first, all witnessed by an incredulous Robert. And that was after Robert had watched Tuffy bail.

“I was right behind Tuffy and he flipped over the bars right in front of me,” Robert explained. “I stopped and asked, ‘Are you okay?’ and he gave me the thumbs up so I took off.

“The same thing happened with his brother, Axel. He must’ve had a pretty good wreck because I saw this big rock that was pulled out [of the ground] and he got up right in front of me so I’m a few bike-lengths behind him and, literally, a hundred yards after where he pulled up that big rock, he flipped over the bars again and I think he broke his collarbone.

“I couldn’t see the things that they were hitting, either, because they were in the grass.”

That led to a change of attitude, though Robert wasn’t the only one to admit it: “After both of those guys wrecked right in front of me, I was basically just like, ‘All right, I’m going to just trail ride, and honestly, it’s so dusty out here that, hopefully, I can ride whatever pace I want and the guys behind me won’t be able to pass me because it’s so dusty.’

“So that was pretty much my [strategy] because I didn’t want to push harder than I needed to out there.”

It worked out, with Robert leading from there to the finish of the three-loop, 77-mile race in two hours, 20 minutes and six seconds to runner-up Sutherlin’s 2:21:12. Tuffy Pearson rebounded from his crash to take a surprised third, saying, “The start helped out. I was able to ride smooth after a few mistakes; I crashed on the second lap—that’s how I gave away second. I went back to fourth then I caught Axel—he had crashed—but all-in-all a good day, just by the end I rode conservatively and got it in for third. I’m super-surprised, actually! I didn’t expect a podium. I was hoping for top 10 and here I am third so yeah, kind of shocking!

Axel Pearson remounted his YZ450FX and rode through the pain of his suspected cracked collarbone to finish fourth in 2:27:47 followed by Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts CRF450X rider Justin Morgan who admitted he was still tired from all the pre-running as well as racing on the winning Baja 500 team the week before.

Utah’s Nick Tolman enjoyed a breakthrough ride on his Notch Peak Racing KTM 250 XC-F, not only winning the FMF Pro 250 class for the first time but placing sixth overall in 2:35:18. Class runner-up Clayton Gerstner followed in seventh overall in 2:38:19, both of them only racing Nationals occasionally. Gerstner has been racing GNCCs this year before returning to his homebase out west, with the X12 being his first H&H since the end of 2015.

Cory Pincock not only won Senior A, but he placed a commendable eighth overall in 2:39:02, beating all other age-group racers in the process. Braydon Bland took third FMF Pro 250 and ninth overall with SRT YZ450FX rider Ryan Smith rounding out the top 10 overall.

The Women A race saw round-two winner Britney Gallegos and first-time H&H entrant Brandy Richards (an AMA Big 6 GP/WORCS/motocross regular) tag team to a 1-2 finish that saw them a remarkable 28th and 29th overall, respectively, and just seven seconds apart at the end.

It was the second win for Ryno Power/Bell Helmets 250 XC-F rider Gallegos after topping the podium at round two in her home state round in New Mexico, and she remains second in points to FMF KTM’s Kacy Martinez-Coy, who was uncomfortable with the high speeds and dust, deciding to settle for third on the day.