Sneak Peek: Loren Healy's Ultra4 Unlimited Truck
If you are familiar with the King of the Hammers you’ll want to skip this first couple of paragraphs. Though I have covered this race in the past and the events coverage continues to grow, it remains a relatively unknown race which still amazes me. The Griffin King of the Hammers presented by Nitto Tires is called the ultimate one day race and it is every bit of that description. The event is held at Johnson Valley OHV Park in California and has been taking place since 2007. It not only involves a desert portion that is run flat out, but also several rock crawling obstacles that test navigation by the driver/co-driver and the durability of the machines crawling them.
The course changes every year and typically during the 3 laps of the course you make as well. As other rigs get stuck or break, they soon become objects to climb or wench points to help you pull your way out. Hell, even if it isn’t stuck your rig may become either of those as the faster and sometimes less patient drivers try to blast by you. While Baja has the speed and Dakar has the time cuts to make each of those difficult, I still feel that the King of the Hammers is the ultimate off road race.
Loren Healy has won the Griffin King of the Hammers presented by Nitto Tires before. His win in 2010 was done in this truck. He switched off to independent front axle truck to gain an advantage in the desert last year but this year he decided to focus on the rocks. So, he sold the IFS rig and went back to his tried, tuned, and proven 2010 Jimmy’s 4×4 built truck.
The suspension will seem very rudimentary at first glance but in reality it’s far more complicated. The truck uses a four-link suspension front and rear and while this doesn’t give great handling on the desert section, it does give the truck a lot of articulation which is important in the rocks.
There is another advantage to going with a solid axle truck that I never considered until I asked many drivers at the King of the Hammers this year: steering angle. While, no, this isn’t drifting, maximum steering angle is important to a rock crawler and using an IFS truck limits steering to typically 45 to 55 degrees. With a solid axle you’re looking at 65 degrees and up.
The limiting factor at this point is the joints themselves and it makes sense when you think about it. The only bending a solid axle has to worry with is turning while the IFS truck has to make a bend to turn and flex with the suspension and eventually it gets to a point where stuff starts to break. There are also more parts to break on an IFS truck and those parts are not cheap.