It’s fun to watch the big dogs run, but if you can’t run with them, is the alternative always to stay under the porch?
In past iterations of King of the Hammers, the answer was yes. If you weren’t a big dog, you weren’t going to run with the premier Unlimited Class. You weren’t even going to pass the qualifiers to get your chance to run with Unlimited racers.
That was then. For the 2012 round, Smittybilt teamed with Hammerking Productions to create the Smittybilt Everyman Challenge. The course was a 77-mile torture fest that contained many of the same trails that the Unlimited rigs would run later in the week. “Torture fest” means miles of wide open desert terrain interspersed with trips up and down some of the gnarliest rockcrawling trails this side of anywhere: the Hammers.
The Everyman Challenge is so named because it was a race for everyman vehicles, namely the Stock and Modified Full-Body classes of Ultra 4 Racing. Stock-Class vehicles are strikingly similar to what you’ll see on a trail near you: 35-inch tires, stock body, stock frame, stock engine, and no more than a single 2.5-inch-diameter shock per wheel. Bypass shocks are not permitted in the Stock Class. The Modified Class opens things up a little more, allowing up to 37-inch tires, certain body modifications, and up to two 2.5-inch-diameter shocks per wheel (bypass shocks permitted).
Perhaps most importantly, the Everyman Challenge didn’t require qualifying for competitors to earn a place on the starting line. If you could build a vehicle that complied with the rules, you could line up to race. This stands in stark contrast to King of the Hammers’ Unlimited Class, where qualifying is both grueling and mandatory.
With one stroke of its rule-making pen, Ultra 4 Racing (sanctioning body for King of the Hammers) created an opportunity for racers to compete in classes where the playing field sits much more level and where driving skills are the primary determinant of who finishes first.
What do we think? We love the concept! Off-roaders by nature are participants, not spectators. Anytime more people can become directly involved, the more fun it is for everyone.
When the checkered flag flew at the 2012 Smittybilt Everyman Challenge, it flew for the Stock-Class Jeep Wrangler driven by John Currie and co-driven by Gerald Lee. Currie and Lee beat the second-place rig by more than 15 minutes: a huge margin in racing terms. Since the Stock and Modified classes raced together, it means that all the Modified entries and the balance of the Stock racing field could only watch as Currie and Lee disappeared over the horizon. Congratulations, gentlemen.
King of the Hammers has grown every year since its inception. Different years bring different themes and different winners to mind. The year 2012 will forever be the Year of the Everyman.
Modified-Class racers Shawn Rants (white Scrambler) and Mike Johnson (black Wrangler) battle the course and each other. Johnson came out on top, taking fourth in the Modified Class and fifth overall in the Everyman Challenge. Rants’s Scrambler, which finished 12th overall, has a New Mexico license plate on its left rear corner. How’s that for an Everyman vehicle?
Larry McRae of Poison Spyder Customs is a longtime rock sports competitor and a force to be reckoned with every time he lines up to race. McRae won the Modified Full-Body Class. Note the way McRae’s rig still bears resemblance to a production vehicle, even though the body panels have been modified as much as allowed. Preserving a stock look makes these vehicles understandable not only to enthusiasts, but to outsiders, as well.
Top honors in the King of the Hammers main event go to Erik Miller of Cumberland, Maryland. Miller, who finished fifth last year. He found some new speed in the KOH desert sections by adding Fox bypass shocks to his rig. Miller summed up his formula for success thusly: “There are one thousand opportunities to make mistakes out there,” he commented at the finish line. “And we just try to make as few as possible.”
If you think rockcrawling is tough in a trail rig, you haven’t tried it on a dirt bike. Jimmy Lewis of Dirt Rider magazine chanced upon KOH one year and decided the event wouldn’t be complete without a motorcycle event of KOH proportions. Ultra 4 Racing’s Dave Cole agreed with Lewis and the two teamed up to make invitation-only King of the Motos happen for the first time this year. Graham Jarvis of Great Britain bested 19 other riders and was first to cross the finish line. He captured a $10,000 purse for his day in (and often out of) the saddle. Dirt Rider’s Chris Green snapped Kyle Redmond leading Jarvis as the two fought their way up a canyon. Kawasaki’s Destry Abbott took third and joined Husaberg riders Jarvis and Redmond on the podium.