2017 King of the Hammers, By the staff of Dirt Wheels —
Imagine trying to climb boulders the size of cars and drive through the roughest and most grueling desert terrain you could find in Southern California’s Johnson Valley for over four hours. That is exactly what 79 UTVs and their drivers and copilots set out to do, attempting to complete the Nitto King of the Hammers UTV race sponsored by Can-Am. It isn’t a race for the faint of heart.
Hammertown isn’t an actual town, but it temporarily looks like one when it becomes a racing hub during KOH week. Hammertown is where vendors, race teams, pit crews, campers and spectators gather for the jeep, truck, UTV and dirt bike racing.
The course terrain consists of deep sand, giant ruts, miles of whoops, G-outs and, above all, boulders and rocks. The first lap is a 60-mile desert loop that separates the competition. A quarter of the field is usually eliminated during this high-speed run.
The second loop holds mountains of boulders and rock gardens that make up the toughest sections of the race. There are sections that require copilots to get out and help direct the driver through it, oftentimes running the cables to secure tie-off points to winch machines through sections of the course.
BRINGING IT HOME
Race leader Shannon Campbell (5) and his copilot came through the finish line with over a 15-minute lead. Behind their Polaris RZR came his son Wayland Campbell finishing in second place, with Jon Crowley taking the third spot on the podium.
After the podium finishers came through, for the rest of the competitors, the race was all about finishing. This year 37 out of 79 teams finished the race. Two years ago only seven competitors completed the race, which shows how far the technology has come for these machines. Go to www.ultra4racing.com to check out the action from past King of the Hammers and a lot more.