King of the Hammers
is an extreme off road competition that takes place at Means Dry Lake in Johnson Valley, California. So far, it has taken place from 2007 to 2013. The event is a timed race, with competitors spaced at 30 second intervals between each other. At each 30 break, two vehicles start side by side and begin the race from a dead start. The course is 165 miles long, but each team must finish the course in only 14 hours or less. The drivers must stay within a certain distance of the prescribed route, and there are check points along the way during the race. The event is called the King of the Hammers because of the extreme terrain the race prepped vehicles must traverse. Some sections of the desert race are on flat, dry, hard packed sand. This is where vehicle speeds can reach up to 100 miles an hour or more. This is a relatively easy task, but these sections are few, and visibility can be poor for following drivers eating the leaders dust and sand. Other parts of the course involve rocky sections that will work the suspensions and drive train parts to their maximum ability. Fortunately, companies like Poison Spyder
, Warn Industries
, and Smittybilt
make some tough parts, along with their sponsorship to support the teams. Remember this is a timed event, so these portions of the track are covered at the fastest speeds possible. Which is a test of hard core racing parts, and makes the ride a driver has to endure akin to rattling two dice in a tin cup. Included in the route is the most inhospitable portions, which require a vehicle to "rock crawl". While the speeds can be as low as 1 mph, the opportunity for disaster, or breaking parts, is at it's highest. Crossing these large boulders without turning over, or getting hung up on, is a the most challenging feat for both man and machine. For many drivers and teams, the race ends here, casting a devastating blow to one's ego and the chance to finish, much less win the event. The King of the Hammers event is produced by Ultra 4 and Hammerking Productions. Currently they have expanded into serving seven races annually under the Ultra4 Racing Series. But the King of the Hammers is still their best known and most popular competitive event. It effectively brings on board sponsors willing to test their products and help teams, with top brands such as Bestop
, Trail Gear
, BF Goodrich
, and Nitto Tires.
The vehicles that are raced in the series include a wide variety of concepts and racing chassis'. The Ultra4 class is virtually unlimited, and the rules simple: the vehicle entered must be 4WD. Beyond that, you are on your own. At first that might sound simple, but the racing vehicle must be capable of covering several different terrains, be able to do 100 miles or more, yet still be able to rock crawl at only 1 mph. Most of the vehicles entered are built specifically for these challenges and this race, built and assembled by each competing team. Even then, out of maybe 50 contestants, only a small portion will even finish. The course is equally brutal on drivers as it is on the vehicles. Repairs can only be done by the driver en route, or in the pits. There is no pit crew, no chase truck full of parts. If you break a part in the desert, it's up to the driver to do the repair. Prima Donnas need not apply. On it's own, King of the Hammersis some of the best 4x4 racing out there. Drawing thousands of fans each year to tolerate the scorching heat to see who the toughest player will be. Defeat is in the air at every challenge. Bending minds, flaring tempers, and fighting the natural elements makes it a marker of the bond between a human and his machine. Who will break first is at an all time high. Which makes it all worth watching this crazy off road bread and circuses for the masses. The Ultra4 Racing Schedule for the remainder of 2014:
- 2014 4WD Hardware Eastern Regional Series
- 9/12 & 9/13 – ULTRA4s at Sturgis Sturgis, KY
- 10/17 & 10/18 – Nitto Tire National Championship – TBD
- 2014 ULTRA4 Europe
- 9/26-9/28 – King of Portugal – Portugal
If you want to see another video of the King of the Hammer events, check out this site.