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Tackling the Gnarliest Terrain in a UTV

Half of the race is mostly climbing up and driving down giant boulder gardens that consist of loose sand and rocks the same size of the UTVs. Getting high-centered and stuck is easy.
May 19, 2016
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The 10th annual King of the Hammers desert race for UTVs was held in the early part of 2016 in Johnson Valley, California, amidst the week-long desert racing event. Thousands of spectators and racers came from surrounding states to watch and compete in multiple races at KOH. The event holds much more than the UTV race. Monstrous rock-crawling trucks, jeeps and dirt bikes are out to play and compete on some of the most technical mountains in California. There are boulders the size of small houses, wide-open dry lakebeds, and sand dunes to traverse. This year’s course consisted of over 100 miles of differing terrain to battle through, and 60 UTVs signed up to compete in the race.

Mitch Guthrie won the 2015 King of the Hammers and was set to win this one by starting on the first row of machines. He suffered a broken part, which settled him into a fifth-place finish this year.
Mitch Guthrie won the 2015 King of the Hammers and was set to win this one by starting on the first row of machines. He suffered a broken part, which settled him into a fifth-place finish this year.

Last year’s winner of the UTV class was Mitch Guthrie, who settled into fifth place this year. The winner for 2016 was Blake Van De Loo in his Jagged X Polaris RZR XP 1000, followed by Branden Sims and Chad Hughes. Only 21 machines managed to finish the race this year, which was a much larger number than last year’s KOH. The competition gets more fierce each year with new advancements in parts technology. A lot of companies that were found in vendor row are located in California.

There were a total of 60 UTVs entered into the race this year, and close to half of them finished the race. Depending on what number you pulled is when you would start.
There were a total of 60 UTVs entered into the race this year, and close to half of them finished the race. Depending on what number you pulled is when you would start.

Hammertown, the base for King of the Hammers, is reasonably close to Los Angeles. Hammertown held a very large vendor row, with companies like High Lifter, S&B Filters, Arctic Cat, Polaris and more to check out. If you aren’t spectating the races or out riding the trails around hammer town, you can pull up a seat to watch the races on the giant screen above the main stage where they provide live feed of the different machines competing. The annual King of the Hammers event will happen next in 2017, so pay attention to www.dirtwheelsmag.com and www.ultra4racing.com for updates on the next event.

A Yamaha YXZ piloted by Jason Weller managed to end up in the top ten finishers. The YXZ is the only sequentially gear-shifted machine on the racecourse.
A Yamaha YXZ piloted by Jason Weller managed to end up in the top ten finishers. The YXZ is the only sequentially gear-shifted machine on the racecourse.
Oftentimes racers get blocked in by other stuck competitors and have to find a way around them. This High Lifter-sponsored Polaris RZR had to wait behind #485 through this part of the course called Chocolate Thunder.
Oftentimes racers get blocked in by other stuck competitors and have to find a way around them. This High Lifter-sponsored Polaris RZR had to wait behind #485 through this part of the course called Chocolate Thunder.

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There were a decent amount of Arctic Cats entered in the race. Two of them were piloted by Sheldon Creed and Robby Gordon.
There were a decent amount of Arctic Cats entered in the race. Two of them were piloted by Sheldon Creed and Robby Gordon.
Vendor row is large at King of the Hammers. High Lifter made a showing this year, along with a lot of other aftermarket part manufacturers.
Vendor row is large at King of the Hammers. High Lifter made a showing this year, along with a lot of other aftermarket part manufacturers.
King of the Hammers competition UTVs need to be built to tackle some of the roughest terrain around. You end up racing the course more than you do the other races. One broken part can ruin your chances to finish.
King of the Hammers competition UTVs need to be built to tackle some of the roughest terrain around. You end up racing the course more than you do the other races. One broken part can ruin your chances to finish.
Sarah Price and Erika Sacks put up a strong fight, at one point ending up in fifth place. Erika’s job as copilot is very difficult; she has to constantly climb out of the machine to spot lines, connect winch lines and guide Sarah through the rough stuff.
Sarah Price and Erika Sacks put up a strong fight, at one point ending up in fifth place. Erika’s job as copilot is very difficult; she has to constantly climb out of the machine to spot lines, connect winch lines and guide Sarah through the rough stuff.
Branden Sims started in 36th place and managed to battle his way up to an impressive second-place finish. It is very easy to break parts out at King of the Hammers; it isn’t how fast you can drive that wins, it is how skilled you are through the rocks that puts you on the podium.
Branden Sims started in 36th place and managed to battle his way up to an impressive second-place finish. It is very easy to break parts out at King of the Hammers; it isn’t how fast you can drive that wins, it is how skilled you are through the rocks that puts you on the podium.
Blake Van De Loo took home the win at the 2016 King of the Hammers. He battled with last year’s winner Mitch Guthrie, passing each other multiple times, but Van De Loo came out victorious.
Blake Van De Loo took home the win at the 2016 King of the Hammers. He battled with last year’s winner Mitch Guthrie, passing each other multiple times, but Van De Loo came out victorious.

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