Pearson wins inaugural U.S.D.R. Desert Race
By Dave Earll
Photos by Tony Lamping
RED MOUNTAIN, CA, DEC. 10
Riding his brand new 2007 YZF 450, Yamaha’s Russ Pearson finished the 2006 season in style by taking the Pro class win at the first ever event of the U.S.D.R / Moose racing California desert championship series.
Competitors at the Red Mountain event awoke Sunday morning to realize a dream come true! Rain Saturday night made for perfect racing conditions, and as the green flag dropped at 9:00 am sharp sending the first row of race #1 (Beginners and Senior 2) off the line, the dust free desert made for some great racing and plenty of passing. First to take the lead on the 13 mile loop was the Dirt Tricks / Z Racing sponsored KTM 200 SX of Senior 2 Expert racer Ron Burns, followed by Open Beginner Brett Bennett. Burns was able to hold his lead heading into the second lap, but by the time the racers headed into the pits to begin their third, it was Bennett who was able to make the pass and put his Honda CRF 450 into the overall lead. With some great riding, the Honda rider was able to hold on and take the Race 1 overall win. Following Bennett across the line were Dan Tufts, Devon Gustofson, Vet Beginner Class winner Michael Mann, and the Kawasaki of Senior 2 expert Steve Argubright.
With Race 1 completed, it was time for the Pros and Experts to suit up and get to the starting line. “The race didn’t start until 11:00 am and they were doing a timed start, One rider every 30 seconds, so the morning was kind of quiet.” Pearson said, “Usually at desert races, we are up at 3:30 am or something crazy to get my bike on the line and start practicing, so it was nice to relax and sleep in a bit with no stress.”
While the Yamaha/Pro Circuit/Moose/Montclair Yamaha rider may have been able to relax, the Pro Class riders who drew starting positions ahead of Pearson were thinking of only one thing; how to stay ahead of the 2005 National Hare and Hound champion.
First to leave the line for the “timed start” was the Temecula Motorsports/MSR/FMF sponsored Honda CRFX 450 of Brian Melsheimer. Having the entire course to himself, the Honda rider pinned the throttle and headed out to the cool multi-line hill climb located right after the start line. After the first hill, the course twisted through some virgin single track and a wide open sand wash before slowing the pace down a little with a technical 1st gear section through the rocks. The second half of the figure eight style course began with some awesome trails along the rolling hills before dropping into another sand wash and a quick dash back to the pits.
As the Pros came out of the hills to complete the first of six laps, it was the Kawasaki of Ryan Kudla who was the surprise leader. The Castais Storage/thousand Oaks Kawasaki/FMF/IMS/BRP sponsored rider was able to make the pass on Melsheimer and now had Pearson hot on his tail.
Pearson, who was the fifth rider off the line, was able to pass everyone but Kudla as he blazed through first lap. “My Yamaha 450 was feeling really good!” Pearson said, “After the first 13 mile loop I was 2nd physically. The next loop I got around the leader and from then on out had a great ride.”
While Pearson was holding on to a commanding lead, the battle for second place could not have been hotter. Kudla was able to keep his Kawasaki physically in second, but coming up fast was the Honda 450 of one of Oregon’s hottest off road racers, Dylan Murdock. “This is only my second desert race” Murdock said, “this is some of the most fun I’ve ever had, it was a great race!” Murdock moved his Precision Concepts/ GPR/Maxxis/MSR/Maxima/Beaverton Honda CRF closer and closer to Kudla, and The two of them literally ran nose to tail for over 50 miles of racing.
As the checkered flag flew, it was Pearson taking the Pro class win and the $1000.00 first place pay check. “I had a great race.” Said the Yamaha rider, “the course was a lot of fun, I would like to see a bit more technical sections, but overall it was pretty cool.” Pearson went on to say, “I have to give thanks to the club for putting on an excellent event”
The battle for second came right down to the finish line. Kudla was able to keep his Kawasaki just in front of Murdock, but that wasn’t quite enough. On adjusted time, it was the Oregon racer who ended up with second place and Kudla with a well deserved third. Forth overall went to the open expert class winner Brett Saunders on his “Moose Racing/Kawasaki/Precision Concepts/Scott/Suomy Helmets sponsored Kawasaki, followed by Ryan Garst, Melsheimer, and Lites Class winner Jacob Argubright.
Overall, almost all the racers loved the format of the new U.S. Desert Racing series, While Experts may have wanted the course to be a little more difficult, the “no bomb run” live engine start by rows was universally liked by everyone.