Experiencing The King Of The Hammers Race As A Novice & Loving It
Experiencing The King Of The Hammers Race As A Novice & Loving It
Last year I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 King Of The Hammers race, which was a first for me. The 2019 King Of The Hammers Race just finished with Mitch Guthrie Jr. taking the win for the second year in a row. It got me thinking about all of you out there who see the King Of The Hammers stories, and wonder what the big deal really is. Before attending the race last year, I felt the same way! The photos are always cool, but why is this race such a big deal? Let me tell you that attending the race changed everything for me! To see the obstacles and challenges these racers must deal with is absolutely mind blowing. Most machines don't even finish the race because they break. This is part of the challenge. You have to run the race fast enough to be in contention, but not so fast that you destroy your UTV. Below is the article I wrote in the March-April issue of ATV & UTV ESCAPE Magazine last year after go attending the race, and experiencing the race first-hand. Take a minute to read it and you might find out why the King Of The Hammers race is such a big deal.
Originally Written In March 2018
Most of you know I am not a a guy who is driven to riding ATVs or side-by-sides by the constant “need for speed”. I love riding for the exploring and adventure side of it, though I don’t mind some flat out speed once in a while. It is safe to say I am not really into off-road racing, or I haven’t been up to now. With all the racing reports that come across my desk, you do not see many of them posted. I do, however, appreciate the difficulty and skill required to race an ATV or side-by-side, and it always fun to meet some of the racers and visit with them. I get excited about the people behind things, because that gives me insight into what it takes to get it done. For years I have received multiple press releases about the famed King Of The Hammers race as being the toughest on Earth, and based upon pictures I would say they were right about the level of difficulty. Everything changes though when you experience something first-hand rather than in a press release! As part of the trip where I had the opportunity to drive the Wildcat XX, I also was able to experience the King Of The Hammers race in person, including a behind the scenes look at the race and what it takes to run the race. What I learned from this is a couple of things. First, pictures do not do the race justice compared to seeing it first hand, and second, it takes on a whole new level of fun and excitement to experience a race in person.
King Of The Hammers has a storied history that includes the classic “group of friends” that would get together to wheel over obstacles for bragging rights. Over time, this turned into a race where people could enter to win money and bragging rights. From there, classes were added for different kinds of vehicles including side-by-sides or UTVs. The King Of The Hammers race not only has become a race for individuals to gain bragging rights, but also the manufacturers of vehicles themselves. The race is a perfect place to test the metal of how a machine is built. Having seen the race circuit, there is little doubt the course will identify where the weak points of any machine are located.
Today’s King Of The Hammers race is a far cry from its humble beginnings. In this years race for the UTV class, 115 UTVs entered the race, and only 12 crossed the finish line. Yes, you heard me correctly. Of 115 UTVs that entered only 12 finished the race, which is mind blowing! I must admit that if you see the course it is easy to see why only 12 finished. That fact is only the start of what the King Of The Hammers race has become since its inception. This year the entire race was televised live, with around 45,000 people coming through the race grounds which is held in the desert of Johnson Valley, CA. Yes, Hammertown, as it is referred too, is the “city” that springs up in the middle of the desert for the King Of The Hammers race complete with streets, vendors, supplies, spectators, camping, and all the services that are required to support 45,000 people. The course itself is made up for a some fast open desert sections and several technical and oddly named rock crawling/obstacle sections. Some of these names include Chocolate Thunder, Jackhammer, Backdoor, Aftershock, Spooners, and Outer Limits just to name a few. These obstacles are unbelievable to watch as these UTVs tackle some of the gnarliest riding I have ever seen, and this is where the crowd comes alive watching the race. If there was a checklist of things one must see a UTV do at a race then the KOH race checks all the boxes. Crawling over boulders… check! Dropping off a rock race… check! Flipping over on the roof or side… check! I even saw one machine drop off a rock face, land on its front wheels, turn a complete 180, and drop down on its wheels. That was nuts! I also saw a guy trying to winch from a boulder and the boulder coming loose and rolling into the course log a bowling ball. Seeing all of this happen leaves a desire in your heart to see it again.
When all the dust settled the evening I was there, Mitch Guthrie Jr. won the 2018 King Of The Hammers race, and it was a blast to be a part of the race by being there. I wouldn’t hesitate to go again either, because watching the race “go down” was a blast. I must admit that after being there to experience the KOH race made me a fan that I was not just by reading press releases. I can still hear the sounds of those UTVs going over the different obstacles with dust and rocks flying, or machines rolling in some cases. It is a lot of fun to experience. One interesting thing is that the land is public, so anyone can head out to Johnson Valley, CA, and run those different trails if you want a serious challenge. I would highly recommend a harness if you decide to give it a whirl! Who knows, maybe someday I will grab a friend, and enter the race. I can say with certainty that just being in the group that finish is quite the accomplishment, so until then I will just be a spectator.
Want to see the original layout and article. Checkout the March-April 2018 Issue Of ATV & UTV ESCAPE Magazine. Subscribe for free at https://atvescape.com/subscribe
KOH, As a spectator
Well lets see. As a spectator getting in the gate the attendant couldn't add $20 and $15 for out entry fee. Absolutely no maps of the course and of spectator viewing areas. On visiting Hammertown asking for direction to the Portapoty's the information booth had no idea. No idea where the Pits where and one male old timer at the info booth asked ME what is "The Pits". All one hundred PortaPotty's are in one location in Hammertown. Seem's they don't understand scattering a few around town for those in need. Food booths, all four of them were closed at 10am. Perfact for all six spectators. One assumes all the other people were participating as drivers or pit crew and had there own food. I did appreciate the Jumbo Tron's at several locations and spectator points. Shown to me by some very helpful crew members. Thanks to Yamaha and Polaris for both demo rides of at least an hour over some really great trails, for free. If your new to ATV riding you would be hooked. The vendors in Hammertown were fantastic, helpful and not your usual pushy sales staff. These guy's enjoyed your questions and comments and general BS besides explaining there wares. Coodoes to the Vendors. All in all I'd give it a 2 out of 10. Not the racing mind you but everything else. Boy I sure could use an overall map and a seperate map for Hammertown showing the food booths (if any) and Portapotty locations. Vendor booth locations ect...
Maybe I'm spoiled but check out the "World Ag Expo" they have 50K per day. 18 local groups serving food and hundreds of Portapottys.
Don't forget there are hundreds of California Weirdo's looking for ways to shut us down or close trails. Buckaroo Just Say-n'