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10 Reasons You Should Have Been At King of the Hammers

Posted in Events on February 8, 2016 Comment (0)
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King of the Hammers Karnage
Broken parts and rolling racecars are a common occurrence on the King of the Hammers (KOH) racecourse. Sometimes it’s due to sheer bad luck, other times it’s caused by overly aggressive use of the pedal on the right side. Regardless of how it happens, carnage is part and parcel of the KOH. You’ll see plenty of carnage happening on the racecourse and being repaired in the pits. Bring your camera.

Paul Horschel had a bit of hard luck. He hammered the obstacle known as Backdoor too hard, stood it on the car’s tail, and went turtle up.

Horschel’s day didn’t end all bad, though. His car was winched back onto its wheels, and he went on to continue the race.

Hardcore Racing
You will see the most intense combination of open desert racing and rock racing found anywhere on the planet. The 2016 Nitto King of the Hammers (KOH) race course was 176 miles long, and consisted of three loops of high-speed racing (at speeds over 100 mph at times) across wide-open desert terrain and through some of the most treacherous boulder-strewn canyons (many requiring extensive use of a winch).

Loren Healy, a two-time winner at KOH, began the week by blowing the engine on his new car, but luckily had his old car (with which he won the 2014 Ultra 4 Championship) on deck. He cleared this cliff only after a few attempts that caused the engine to throw its serpentine belt (losing steering), which Healy put back on, and then winched over the obstacle to continue the race. Unfortunately, problems later that day kept Healy from finishing.

Jason Sherer, who would go on to take second place in the 2016 Nitto King of the Hammers, ground his way up Backdoor, tires chewing up the rocks and spitting them out as he climbed over it.

Matt Garafalo (#928) and Jeff Russell (#4427) got tangled up trying to get through a tight squeeze in the boulders side by side. When Garafalo got high-centered his co-driver jumped out to get the winch line going. Russell then backed out from under Garafalo’s wheel to go around him.

Amazing Technology
Whether it’s found in the pits or when the cars are going through tech, the incredible variety of race machines on display is mind-boggling. You can check out everything from $100,000 dollar wizardry to homegrown mechanical hooliganism. The imagination and level of automotive technology on display is worth the trip itself. Looking for ideas? Here’s the place to see it, ask the racers about it, and figure out how you can apply it to your rock crawling rig.

Some of the most advanced 4x4 off-road racecar technology on the planet is on display at King of the Hammers, and you can see it all being worked on throughout Hammertown.

There are also hundreds of homegrown rigs running around Hammertown. If you’re looking for ideas to try on your own recreational 4x4 rig, then this is the place to be. Bring your camera!

Hammertown
Hammertown is the temporary city of approximately 40,000 people (by BLM estimate) and thousands of motorhomes, travel trailers, 5th wheels, toy haulers, and tents that popped up for the week of racing that includes King of the Motos for motorcycles, the Polaris RZR KOH UTV race, the Smittybilt Every Man Challenge, and the Nitto King of The Hammers race that capped the week-long event on Friday, February 5, 2016. If you’ve never been there, imagine a cross between Bartertown from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and the Burning Man festival. It’s one heck of a huge gasoline-fueled motorized party in the middle of the desert.

Hammertown spreads out across Means Dry Lake in Johnson Valley, California, during the week leading up to King of the Hammers, growing to approximately 40,000 people and thousands of motorhomes, travel trailers, toy haulers, and tents. It’s like Burning Man for off-road enthusiasts.

We found these guys enjoying the early evening hours in Hammertown with a very unique campfire enclosure.

Cool Rigs Everywhere
Aside from the racecars, you’ll find just about every type of off-road rig you every dreamed of running around Hammertown. There are thousands of 4x4s in “town,” and you’ll lose count if you bother to try. You’ll see Jeeps, pickups, and one-off custom-built off-road vehicles of every type, brand, and level of build. Again, if you’re looking for ideas for your 4x4, this is the place to come, and people are more than happy to tell you all about how they fabricated whatever it is you’re looking for.

This awesome Jeep J200 pickup was one of our favorites among the hundreds of Jeeps running around in Hammertown.

If you’re into really vintage, here’s one for you. This Willys CJ-2A was being used as a chase/pit/communication vehicle by one of the race teams.

Johnson Valley Four-Wheeling
It’s hard to imagine a better place to go four-wheeling with your buddies than Johnson Valley. While some sections of the racecourse are off limits to recreationalists during King of the Hammers race week (for obvious reasons), the are hundreds of miles of stupendous rock-crawling 4x4 trails and innumerable sand dunes on which to test your driving skills and flex your mechanical muscle.

Dozens of hardcore rock crawling trails are open to recreational four-wheelers during King of the Hammers week, including this one we visited known as Tackhammer.

Weird Vehicles
If you’re as big a gear head as we are, then you dig just about anything with an engine and wheels (or tracks). You’ll find the oddest assortment of weird and wonderful vehicles at King of the Hammers. This year we found a 1937 International pickup-bodied rat rod, an M29 Weasel (a tracked vehicle developed during WWII to carry commandos over snow-covered terrain) that Dirt-Fab Racing was using as a rescue/pit/chase vehicle, and a mini-bus built on a UTV chassis from which the Shortbus Ice Cream company pedals its frozen wares.

Just outside the Nitto Tire tractor-trailer pit, we spotted this 1937 International pickup-bodied off-road rat rod. Got to love that patina!

Ever seen one of these? It’s an M29 Weasel, a tracked vehicle developed during WWII to carry small groups of commandos over snow-covered terrain. It was being used as a chase vehicle by Dirt-Fab Racing.

Parked next to the big short bus from which Shortbus Ice Cream was selling its frozen wares, was this little short bus built on a UTV chassis.

Parts, Parts, And More Parts
Whether you’re just shopping, or you broke something and need to replace or repair it, you can find almost anything you need along the vendor rows in the heart of Hammertown. Need an axle? Dynatrac was there this year with a semi-trailer full of parts. Need a radio? Rugged Radios had its trailer on the ground. Need tie-down straps? Mac’s could have provided it. There was even a swap-meet style tent where you could find a vast assortment of hardware, CV joints, Heim joints, and all sorts of other bits and pieces to fix what’s broke.

Dozens of vendors had displays, and some even brought along tractor-trailers full of parts and accessories for purchase in Hammertown.

Jumbotron Party
Feeling like you want to kick back and watch the race course action from the comfort of your camp chair? Well, no problem. There was a huge Jumbotron screen on which the dozens of TV cameras around the racecourse were broadcasting a live feed. It was like a huge Super Bowl party in the Bestop spectator area all day, and long into the night. And a bonfire around the Bestop “B” sign kept things warm and cozy once the sun went down.

Hundreds of spectators parked their camp chairs in the Bestop spectator area so they could have a front row seat to the race action being streamed live to a Jumbotron screen.

Grandstand In The Sky
Monster Energy provided a massive two-story viewing platform that overlooked the start/finish line and the short course track that coiled through the heart of Hammertown. Downstairs you could grab a cold one (Monster, that is), and upstairs you could have a commanding overhead view of the start/finish and the hot pits.

Monster Energy was a major sponsor of the 2016 Nitto King of the Hammers, and had a huge double-decker spectator platform right next to the start/finish line. Cold drinks (Monsters, of course) were available on the lower level, and the upper deck offered a bird’s eye view of all the action around Hammertown.

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