KING OF THE HAMMERS

— UTVs take on the toughest race ever —

The first week of February, off-road enthusiasts converge on California’s Means Dry Lake by the tens of thousands to watch the spectacle known as King of the Hammers. Over the years, this Ultra-4 truck race has expanded with races for other classes of 4x4s, UTVs and dirt bikes (King of the Motos). After Shannon Campbell won both the 10th KOH UTV race and the Ultra-4 4400-class races in 2017, promoter and course designer Dave Cole promised the 2018 KOH UTV course would be the toughest in history.

After dominating in 2017, the Campbell clan of Shannon, Wayland and Bailey all DNF’d. Wayland stopped to help Aaron and Maddie Wedeking fix their RZR. The Campbells fabricated their own trailing arms and high-clearance links and ran 32-inch EFX Motohammer tires.

Despite the warnings of an impossible 134-mile UTV course, 118 UTV teams from 28 states entered the 11th KOH UTV challenge with Can-Am as the main sponsor. Entries for 2016 were 60, and that increased to 75 UTVs for 2017 when the Campbell family ran out front most of the day, with dad Shannon winning, son Wayland taking second and daughter Bailey DNFing after leading early.

Mitch Guthrie Jr. took over the lead at Sledgehammer and developed a huge lead on the second lap to take his first-ever KOH UTV win. Senior endoed at Back Door but recovered for third overall. Both ran 32-inch ITP Blackwater Evolutions.

BIGGEST KOH UTV EVER

Family participation in the KOH UTV was even bigger this year, with TORC short-course champions and icons Johnny and CJ Greaves taking the two top qualifier positions ahead of Casey Currie of the Currie Racing clan. The three Campbells returned for another attempt at the double win, and Team Guthrie returned in an attempt at a seventh KOH UTV title. Mitch Senior has won six total, while Junior hadn’t pulled a win off yet. Blake Van De Loo (2016) started ninth, but Brandon Schueler (2011) wasn’t present. SCORE 2017 Forced-Induction UTV champion Marc Burnett and 2017 BITD Pro Production UTV champion Phil Blurton tackled the toughest KOH UTV yet. John Currie joined sons Casey and Cody in his own Can-Am, while Aaron and Maddie Wedeking of PRP Seats switched to a RZR XP Turbo.

Phil Blurton, the 2017 BITD Pro Production UTV champion, had a fine showing at his first rock-crawling race, finishing eighth. He played it safe at Back Door and had his co-pilot, Beau Judge, man the strap as he made the 10-foot drop.
The second successful father/son team was Johnny (shown) and CJ Greaves, who were seventh and fifth, respectively, in factory Yamaha GYTR YXZ1000R Sport Shifts with GYTR Turbo kits pushing 220-plus horsepower. They also ran the GYTR TAG gear kit with a Tubeworks taller fifth gear and qualified one-two.

FAST DESERT, GNARLY BOULDERS & DUST

A dusty course with little wind greeted the 118 UTV teams that Wednesday morning, as two teams started every 30 seconds and raced a short stadium section into the fast 70-mile desert loop. With the start of the rock-crawling loop, beginning with Resolution and Back Door, it looked like Polaris’ KOH UTV domination would come to an end, as the Turbo YXZ Sport Shifts of CJ and Johnny Greaves led the Monster Energy X3 X rc Turbo R of Casey Currie down Back Door. Mitch Guthrie Jr. was fourth at that point, with fellow RZR pilot Robert Vanbeekum fifth.

Also, in his first KOH UTV race, defending SCORE Turbo UTV champ Marc Burnett drove his Monster Energy X3 rock crawler to sixth. He ran a Factory UTV full skid plate, 32-inch ITP Ultracross R-Specs and Summers Brothers axles.
Casey Currie passes Branden Sims, who lost 20 minutes getting stuck and winching, at Chocolate Thunder. Most Can-Am factory pilots were in the new X3 X rc Turbo R with 32-inch tires. Currie ran EFX Motohammers on KMC beadlocks and was fourth. Sims recovered for second overall.

Admitted rock rookie CJ Greaves led for 89 miles until he rolled his Monster Mutant YXZ down Sledgehammer, handing the lead over to Guthrie Jr. Hammerking Guthrie Sr. rolled it down Back Door but only lost a few minutes, while Dustin Nelson broke his YXZ’s left-rear suspension at Back Door and retired. Meanwhile, Branden Sims was making time as the race progressed over Boulderdash, Upper Big Johnson, Clawhammer, Fissure Mountain, Sledgehammer, Jackhammer and Jack North to Chocolate Thunder, where he lost about 20 minutes winching. The course snaked east and north to Aftershock and Compaction Hill, then looped west into the desert before climbing Resolution and going down the 10-foot drop at Back Door a
second time before the finish.

Bailey Campbell physically finished in 14th, but she wasn’t within the eight-hour time limit. The Campbells also ran RCV axles, Factory UTV skid plates, Safecraft fire-suppression systems and Factory Fox shocks with Dirt Skins covers.

Guthrie Jr. stretched his lead to more than 42 minutes after Chocolate Thunder, finishing in 5:54:43 with Sims second after 6:36:58. Mitch Senior recovered for third (6:53:07) to make it yet another all-Polaris podium, ahead of the Can-Am of Casey Currie (6:54:21) and the Yamaha of CJ Greaves (6:58:04). Only 12 teams finished within the eight-hour time limit, with Loren Healy, Bailey Campbell and Cody Currie physically finishing the course but not being scored. With 12 finishers out of 118, that’s a 90-percent attrition rate!

CJ Greaves led the first 89 miles in his first KOH UTV race but rolled it in Sledgehammer. His Monster Mutant Super Soda Yamaha ran 30-inch Maxxis Roxxillas on Method bead-locks, Factory Fox shocks and a Rugged Radio and M3 two-person Air-Pumper System ($325).

RESULTS:

1. Mitch Guthrie, Jr…………………….. Pol

2. Branden Sims………………………… Pol

3. Mitch Guthrie, Sr……………………. Pol

4. Casey Currie………………………… C-A

5. CJ Greaves…………………………. Yam

6. Marc Burnett………………………… C-A

7. Johnny Greaves……………………. Yam

8. Phil Blurton………………………….. C-A

9. Kyle Anderson……………………… Yam

10. Ross Pilgreen………………………. Pol

11. Jacob Versey……………………….. Pol

12. Ricky Farmer……………………….. Pol

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