If you follow the world of off-road racing, you know one of the biggest and fastes- growing races of the season is King of the Hammers. It has doubled in size from last year and more than tripled from its conception just a couple of years ago. I headed to Johnson Valley, California, to check out this year's big race and to forage on the trails with the 30,000 spectators as we watched the final race for the 2010 title.
I arrived at the makeshift city of HammerTown, filled with RVs and toy haulers, before dawn to catch the final qualifiers at the starting line. The sun was peeking over the eastern San Bernardino mountain ridge and the tent city came alive as the spectators started their rigs and off-road vehicles for a day of chasing the race vehicles. Being a spectator is a sport all its own. You need the right vehicle and the ability to drive the trails and hillsides to watch the race without getting in the way.
The 135-mile King of the Hammers course challenged the will of drivers and the ability of UTVs. Jason Scherer the 2009 King, Shannon Campbell, Casey Currie, Rob MacCachren, and Rick D Johnson were some of the biggest names to follow from the sidelines. These drivers had to overcome some of the most grueling obstacles that quickly changed the leader boards throughout the day. Rick Johnson had a huge lead in the beginning of the race as he made his way through the Backdoor, but soon found himself fighting steering and axle shaft problems. Shannon Campbell had to battle an overheating tranny, and Rob MacCachren's motor blew and wasn't able to finish the race at all. Many of the drivers fell behind due to rollovers and mechanical problems. Out of 100 competitors who started the race, only 43 finished. It's a true test of man and machine.
The race zig-zagged through Crowbar, up Resolutions, down the Backdoor, across the dry lakebeds, up and down the Outlimits, Hell's Gate, and Wrecking Ball just to name a few trails. (Click here to view the full race map). The contest went on into the night, until the last able-bodied vehicle crossed the finish line.
Winners Loren Healy and co-driver Rodney Woodey.
Photo by Harry Situations
Loren Healy took the win and the coveted scepter as 2010 Griffin King of the Hammers title. Two days before the big race, Healy finished fifth place at 14:18 in 2010 4 Wheel Parts Last Chance Qualifier Race. The top 21 winners got the chance to run in the big one. Healy and his co-driver Rodney Woodey started the King of the Hammers race in the 53rd position. It took them six hours/57 minutes/53 seconds to conquer the 135-mile loop course in. Brad Lovell, who started the race in the second position, also finished in second place, only 28 seconds behind Healy.
When the race was over, the residents of Hammertown celebrated another great day of rock crawling and racing with a huge party. As for me, I headed back home. Weaving back to the main highway in pitch-black darkness was a whole other adventure of its own.
If you didn’t have a Jeep to chase the race with, a UTV was the next best thing.
Venders like to tweak their suspension any way they can.
A few SVT Raptors we spotted playing in the mud.
A view of Hammertown from Crowbar
When rocks weren’t being climbed, the dirt was flying.