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Rear View Mirror 2-13-17

John Schommer
Monday, February 13, 2017

This week Rear View Mirror takes a look at the King of the Hammers race held in Johnson Valley California. These drivers are beyond extreme; their path is the path few others can follow and their event is pure awesome.


“Hammers is like ‘Burning Man’ for trucks,” Merrick from Merrick’s Garage on YouTube said. Now if you don’t know what Burning Man is, it’s a city built in the desert where the focus is on outlandish art, great music, very few rules, and a sense of community. King of the Hammers is similar. Hammertown is made up of thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, more than 130 vendors, and the 122 teams that were entered in this year’s 181-mile race and related events.


Take a look around Hammertown:



There is more than just one race; there are classes for the everyman that take on specific legendary obstacles like the Back Door, Chocolate Thunder, and the Outer Limits. There are also several motorcycle races that take on this terrific terrain, including King of the Motos race, as well as a night race that takes the danger and challenge to a new level.


The Vehicles of King of the Hammers

First, let’s take a step back and introduce you to these types of vehicles, because they are really like nothing else on Earth. You may have heard of rock crawlers, extreme 4x4s designed to conquer any terrain put before them. They are composed of lots of tubular steel to protect vital components and the drivers. They always have massive winches, because they are needed to get past some obstacles. And they have massive tires and suspensions, whose traction and travel are abused to climb, crawl, and clamber over rocks, ruts, or whatever else gets in their way.



Some of the vehicles still have a resemblance to their former lives as a truck or Jeep or the like; these fit in the Everyman class. Then you have what has evolved from these rigs called an Ultra4. These builds can easily cost more than $100,000 and represent the cutting edge of traction technology. They are able to attack ridiculously difficult obstacles, including climbing straight up rock walls, as well as motivate through the whoops and bumps of the desert similar to a Trophy Truck. Ultra4 is an unlimited class, where your pocketbook is the only limit.


These are far from Trophy Trucks though, which are built with long travel suspensions with one real purpose, let the truck go fast. Ultra4 vehicles may have four-wheel steering, they might have independent suspension in the front and solid axles in the rear. Their chassis will articulate as they conquer boulders and rock fields and canyons.


The Backdoor is the toughest obstacle on the course. Watch how fast some get past it, and how others flounder and flip:



The race itself is absolutely brutal. Consider this: out of 122 teams that entered, only 50 finished. That is 181 miles of punishment. The winning vehicle, driven by veteran off-roader Shannon Campbell, finished on three tires and a rim. It was his third victory at KOH. Contestants must finish the course in a grueling 14 hours. Mathematically that comes out to just under 13 mph for the whole course. Some portions will be at a crawl, others, wide open in top gear.


Here is a look at the hill climb they call “Chocolate Thunder:”



Ultra4 Class

The winner Shannon Campbell did it in six hours and 46 minutes, a 28 mph average. His son Wayland was just 28 seconds behind him. The other Campbell, Shannon’s daughter Bailey finished as well at around the 10-hour mark. Third place went to Jason Scherer who was searching for his second win.


Even in the top Ultra4 class, the purse is nothing huge. First place was $25,000, second got $5000, and third place got a meager $100. These guys don’t do it for the money, they do it for the sense of accomplishment.


Take a look at the official race day highlights:



Everyman Challenge

Not every man or woman can afford to build an unlimited class machine, and that’s what the Everyman Challenge is for. It’s made up of three classes from mostly stock vehicles with no larger than 35-inch tires to the Legends class, which is considered a stepping stone into Ultra4.



This year in the top class, brothers Brad and Roger Lovell took the win. In the middle of the road Mod class, Marty Mann, who had previously only ridden in King of the Motos, worked his way through the field for a class win and third overall. The stock class was won by a small four-wheel-drive shop owner from California, Ben Varozza, who has entered every year since 2012 but was previously winless.


The purse for the Everyman is even smaller than the Ultra4, proving that these folks are not in it for the money or the fame. Well, maybe a little bit of fame.


Here is a look at the Everyman Challenge:



There is also a UTV class where beefed up side-by-sides compete on their own routes. The Campbell family dominated this group with Shannon Campbell winning and Wayland Campbell taking second. Daughter Bailey was in contention until just 10 miles from the finish when a mechanical issue set her back to 15th.


Tanner Foust Donut Media on Public Roads

This video is part of a larger video that Rockstar Energy has put together called Quantum Drift along with superstar driver Tanner Foust. Whether or not you’ve seen the series, this video is worth watching on its own. There aren’t any guardrails to save Foust, and you can bet this public road in nearby Portland, OR wasn’t shut down for long to give them time for practice makes perfect. Enjoy!



That’s it for this week my Forza friends. I hope to see some of you tomorrow in the Tuesday stream, where I will be hitting the latest #Forzathon and playing around with the cars of the Playseat Car Pack. Show starts at 1 p.m. Pacific. See you there!


Everyman Jeep photo credit to Reichard Von McCoyworth III


Other KOH photos courtesy of King of the Hammers and Ultra4 Racing.