The race begins with a semi-traditional desert start, with vehicles leaving at 45 second intervals. However, even here the King of the Hammers is different, allowing two rigs to go at a time instead of the traditional one. The start also takes place in the “short course,” which is named so because it takes on a short course off road track style before approaching the first mountain which includes a start/finish jump, a wide, 180 degree turn, and a second jump before heading on. This is also where the main pit stalls are located.
|Here is where the start/finish line and “Hammer Town are.” Hammer Town is where the racers park their rigs and where Vendors distribute their stuff. It's even laid out in streets so you can find your way!|
Since this is more than just a rock crawl, there are remote pits like in desert racing. You can use these strategically or just plain use them are your pits. However, even though there are pits you can utilize, anything can and will happen as you drive against the Johnson Valley. Rigs are required to carry enough food, water, and survival gear for 24 hours. Since you may also have a navigator to guide you on the correct course, you also need to carry stuff for that person, too. They are also equipped with a spare tire, or two, spare driveshaft or driveshafts, and other repair parts, towing equipment, and tools they can safely carry.
|The drivers carry what they safely take with them in case something breaks. The desert can be harsh, as my toes will attest to! Being better prepaired is what allowed the all of the Nitto Tire rigs to finish the 2012 King of the Hammers. That is an amazing feat to have 3 rigs to finish from the same team!|
“It's brutal, for one,” says Shannon Campbell, who won the King of Hammers in 2011, as I asked him to describe the KoH to you, our readers, “there is some 'road racing' out there, but it's dirty marbley stuff and after about 100 guys get through there, the berms get taller and you bash into them and drift right on to two wheels, so we are drifting it, too, sometimes one. Then we get into the hill climbs and the rock crawls, it's amazing with the terrain changes out here… it's rough out there, I'm surprised I have my teeth left!”
“The 2012 Griffin King of the Hammers: The Ultimate Off Road Race”
This year's race was like no other before it as not only were there over 130 teams signed on for this year's King of the Hammers, but drivers like off road veteran and NASCAR Driver, Robbie Gordon and Casey Currie, whose family not only produces many of the axles and housings that these competitors use, but is quickly becoming an off road legend himself, entered in this multinational event. When I say multinational, I mean drivers were coming from Japan, Austrailia, and even Germany to take part in this “Ultimate Off Road Race!”
|When I say Rock Crawling is international I mean it. Check out the Nitto Tire rig of Driver and his Co-Driver , who are both from Japan. Other international drivers include Australia’s Ben Napier, Fabio Manno from Italy, Jose Manuel Ponce from Mexico, Curtis Warner from Canada, Australiia's Nick Finch, and Belgium's driver Axel Burmann.|
Because of the threat of Johnson Valley's closure, Dave Cole decided that instead of just letting 100 drivers enter the event, he would let all that tried to qualify race in this year's King of the Hammers. In his mind, this would better reflect the importance of keeping the valley open to all people because there were over 135 entries and that included the “Everyman Challenge” winner, whose stock and modified class trucks could enter to get a chance to race them in the 2012 King of the Hammers. On top of that were the 35 drivers of the Pitbull Tires King of the Hammers UTV Race and 23 entrants of the King of the Motos 6 hour Motorcycle Enduro. Then add the thousands who attended as spectators, media, and vendors, but more on that later.
|This is just a small, and I mean small, example of the crowd that was there for the King of the Hammers!|
The event started at 8 AM with the driver line up and shortly afterwards the drivers took off side by side in the 45 second intervals. At the very start, Casey Currie in the Campbell Monster Energy rig ran into fuelling problems. The fuel pump was cutting out and he had to make a repair just before taking off. Robby Gordon, in his Campbell SPEED Energy ran into engine issues after just 20 miles into lap one. “We had a really good time qualifying and the crowd was awesome,” began Robby after I caught up to him after the event was over, “Obviously we didn't plan on DNF'ing, you know, we talked about changing the motor in it with that hot rod engine. We didn't and left the stock one because, you know, it was supposed to run all day long and then it went 20 miles and blew up.” You could see the disapointment on him, but it wasn't because he had a potential win, “It's a huge disapointment because the guys put in a lot of effort, last minute.”