A First Timer’s Firsthand Account of the Ultimate Off-Road Race
The King of the Hammers race is legendary. For years I had always read about it in magazines, and closely watched the coverage online to try to get a sense of what it would be like to be there. This year I was determined to make the trip to go see it in person.
Being from Alabama, I’m heavily involved in the “rock bouncing” scene in the south east, and have been since the start of it almost 10 years ago. I’m accustomed to full throttle climbs up slick and muddy mountainsides, with 600+ horse power diggers (or “cars” as the west coast would refer to them as) on 44 inch tall tires. Going to the middle of the desert to be around go-fast Ultra 4 race cars would be a very different experience!
I loaded up my curved bill hat, white socks, and sweet tea and pulled into Hammertown late Sunday evening. Cresting the hill on the road and seeing the glow of lights from what really was a small town made up of hundreds of tents and RVs in the middle of the desert is definitely a moment I won’t soon forget.
One of the reasons that convinced me this was the year to go was the Backdoor Shootout, East vs. West on Monday night. Just about every night of KOH week there are people gathered on the Backdoor trail getting rowdy trying to make the big ledge climb in front of the crowd, this year on Monday night that action would be organized into a race and several bouncer style rigs from back east showed up to try their luck on this famous west coast trail. While rock bouncers like Bobby Tanner and Luke Wilson may have stolen the show, Randy Slawson took the win in his KOH 2013 winning Bomber race car.
Spending the whole week at King of the Hammers may seem like a long time to be out in the middle of the desert, but there is so much going on and so many things to see it’s almost impossible to soak it all in. The qualifying on Tuesday and Wednesday was very spectator friendly, and the action was intense. If you didn’t feel like watching from a spectator area on the side of the course, many kicked back in chairs in front of the jumbotron and watched the exceptional live coverage right there from the comfort of Hammertown.
The Every Man Challenge on Thursday consisted of 4 different classes of rigs, ranging from the stock class including rigs like Jeeps on 35 inch tires, to the Legends class which was just one step away from Ultra 4. Friday was the main race, a week of fun all leading up to the most hardcore race in the off-road industry. Over 150 cars would start the race but only 32 racers would finish. Loren Healy would take the win finishing the 190+ mile course in just over 8 hours.
Getting the opportunity to live in Hammertown for a week with 40,000 other motorsports enthusiasts is an experience I highly suggest. Be sure to check back soon for more race coverage and a full photo gallery from the 2014 King of the Hammers.
noun: digger; plural noun: diggers
1. a rig or buggy, not “car”, that is used for off-road activities such as rock bouncing, trail riding, mud whomping, hill killing, or rock crawling.