CHRONICLE KING OF THE HAMMERS 2018:

UGÍJAR - LOS ÁNGELES

Last February I went to the United States to watch and record one of the most important and prestigious off-road races in the world: King Of The Hammers . After many hours of flight I arrived in Los Angeles and stayed overnight in a hotel but the next day we picked up a motorhome that would be our home for more than a week.



February 3rd:
THE ARRIVAL


On February 3 I arrived at the camping area called "Hammertown". There was a long line of motorhomes to go through an arch that read: "Welcome to Hammertown USA" . In the same arc you had to deliver the receipt as you had paid the entrance to the "Hammertown". A great dust cloud in all Johnson Valley already made me realize that it was going to be a week at the top of races and to enjoy with the many and incredible cars that there is the United States. There were a lot of cars moving!

When we set up our camp I went to find the "Media" tent where I would have to fill out a form and there they would give me my vest, bracelet, an envelope with race maps, list of runners and schedules. At last! I already had press accreditation from King Of The Hammers 2018 and I would become the first Spanish to get it J.

With my accreditation in hand and only had to wait for there to be qualifying races, motorcycle races, UTV races ... Meanwhile I went to one of the mythical zones of the KOH: the "Backdoor" . What was my surprise to see that there were people trying to climb the step. I spent a good part of the afternoon recording those fans. Many tried to climb the step but few managed to do it.

Late at night we went to another mythical area such as the "Chocolate Thunder" . There were many people watching as fans were climbing the ravine with their cars. In the "Chocolate Thunder" I found all kinds of vehicles: with more or less preparation, protos, UTV, etc.

That was awesome!

The races had not started yet and the public atmosphere was amazing
and the influx of cars at that time of night.


 
February 4th:
GET STARTED 

On Sunday the 4th, very early, I had my first briefing. I have to say that it was mandatory to go to the briefings because if you did not show up, you could have your accreditation and you could not apply for future editions of the KOH. The first briefing was for the King Of the Motorcycle. Right after the briefing we would go straight to the starting grid. 83 motorcycles in total. I placed myself in a good place to record the start because it would be the little I could record of this race. Just then I would go to the "Chocolate Thunder" to record them down the ravine, refuel the bike and climb a very steep slope with many rocks. Seeing that no more motorcycles were coming, we left the race and went to the "Backdoor" to see who was there. That was crowded with the public. There we would be all afternoon until nightfall. That same afternoon was the first time I saw a "Rock Bouncer" . It was amazing the sound of his V8, the pilot was a young boy who went to try the step but an excess of acceleration made it overturn the buggy. Other cars with less power would go up very well, apart from that there would be several KOH teams doing reconnaissance of the area, making the step down.
 
Late in the evening we would return to the "Chocolate Thunder" to browse a little more, since in the distance you could see many lights. We approach the area full of cars queuing to climb the ravine. On the sides, a lot of expectant people to see the ascent.
I wish here in Europe there was the same passion for the engine as there is in the USA.



FEBRUARY 5 & 6th:
PURE SPECTACLE


On Monday 5th of the night the "Shootout" would take place. Its official name is the "Holley EFi Shootout" , sponsored by KMC , King Shocks and Action Sports Canopies . In this edition they changed the location of the race to accommodate more public. There were a total of 31 registered drivers of which only 26 would finish. The test consisted of 2 zones.
 
In the first area we had a strong climb with rock in the so-called "Frontdoor" . The fastest would be Ryan Webb with a time of 16min 48s, followed by Bobby Tanner with about 17min 13s. One of the most popular pilots of the night would be Cash LeCroy (only 9 years old!). LeCroy ran with a custom Polaris RZR and finished 8th with a time of 20min 07s.
 
The second zone was additional, known as the "Yukon Mountain" . There the pilots had to climb a rock with a 100-110º slope. Almost nothing. The first to climb it would take a prize of $ 10,000. Only 2 pilots would climb it. The first to do it was Jeff McKinley who, with a smoothness with the accelerator and the rear direction, would climb to the top taking the $ 10,000. The second and last to get it would be Cody Wagoner who, with a smooth driving and helped by its rear direction, would reach the top of the rock.
 
On days 5 and 6 the qualifications of the different categories of cars would be celebrated, the 4500 and 4800 the first day and the 4400 the second. In category 4500/4800 there were a total of 110 cars registered, qualifying only 71. The pole would get Casey Gilbert (# 618) using a time of 1h 58min 06s. Followed by Kent Fults (# 4805) doing a time of 2h 00min 09s. The third classified would be Bailey Cole (# 4854) marking a time of 2h 01min 02s. On the second day the qualifications of the 4400 vehicles would begin very early. Notable are the rollovers in the second banked curve of Jessi Combs (# 8), Trevor Fults (# 4403) and Erik Peterson (# 128). The rest of the day would pass without incidents and having 109 teams registered, of which they qualified 94. The pole would get Paul Horschel (# 19) with a time of 1h 46min 04s. Using a second more we would have Jason Scherer (# 76) with a time of 1h 47min 04s. The third was Loren Healy (# 61) with a time of 1h 48min 05s.
 


February 7TH:
OVERTURNS AT THE "BACKDOOR"


On the 7th the "Can-Am KOH UTV Race" race was held , I was greatly surprised by the agility of these vehicles. They were mostly Polaris, Can-Am and Yamaha with more or less preparation. A total of 118 teams signed up, including Robby Gordon (# 4977). The departures of the participants were made 2 in 2 and with an interval of several seconds from the first pair to the second. The first to leave would be Johnny Greaves (# 122) and CJ Greaves (# 33). After recording all the output I would approach the "Backdoor" to record new shots. The first to pass would be CJ Greaves (# 33). The passage of the UTV by the "Backdoor" was characterized by the overturning in the step and the almost impossible maneuvers to avoid overturning. In particular, one of them ended up sinking the nose and turning the buggy round like a spinning top. The driver Travis Zollinger (# 220) ended up overturning the step and ended up capsizing down the steps. When I had spent much of the buggies for the "Backdoor" I went to the "Chocolate Thunder". The first would be again CJ Greaves (# 33) but before there was a significant number of dropouts. Of the 118 teams only 15 teams finished, entering the last 3 out of the 8 hours they had to complete the race. The victory would be for Mitch Guthrie Jr , (# 9) scoring a time of 5h 54min 43s. Next came Branden Sims (# 913) with a time of 6h 36min 58s. Third ended Mitch Guthrie Sr with a time of 6h 53min 7s.



February 8th:
SHOWTIME IN THE "EVERYMAN CHALLENGE"


On the 8th, the "Smittybilt Everyman Challenge" will take place from 8 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon. In this race would run the 4800/4500 and 4600. About 8 in the morning would start the start with Casey Gilbert (# 618) and Ken Fults (# 4805) at the head. Every 30 seconds, 2 cars would come out like this until a little more than 8:30 in the morning, when the last car would come out. Then I would go back to the "Backdoor" and about 9:45 would pass Casey Gilbert (# 618) who was first followed by Seth Van Dyke (# 4838). The first 20 cars would download the "Backdoor" without problem. One of the most spectacular overturns would be Robby Flandro (# 51) who, driving the nose into the big step gave a tremendous bell spin. To highlight also, the double overturn of Jesse Lee (# 4819) overturning in the 2 steps of the "Backdoor". There I would be filming until just after 11 in the morning because there were very few cars coming and I decided to change the area and get closer to the "Jackhammer".
The "Jackhammer" is a spectacular area. It is a very wide ravine with lots of large rocks. In addition, it is a good area to record since the section that the cars have to do is quite long. For me, one of the best areas I've seen. When it arrives at the "Jackhammer" the cars that were in the lead had passed, the first car to record would be the one of Jeren Gunter (# 4809) that in the "Backdoor" would pass in 6th position. Shortly after, I did the same with Jimmy Jack (# 63), which would have a turn in the top of the "Jackhammer", having to be helped by Matt Howell (# 4510) who was behind him to put the car on foot .
Of the 137 participants in the 3 categories, only 13 participants would finish with only 12 being classified!
The first 3 classified would make the journey in less than 7 hours. As a curiosity, the first 3 participants would be of different categories. The race would be won by Dan Fresh (# 88) making a time of 6h 15min 47s. Followed by Casey Gilbert (# 618) with a time of 6h 21min 40s. The third step of the podium would be for Jessi Combs (# 4618) using a total time of 6h 58min 24s.



February 9th:
NITTO, THE MAIN DISH


On the 9th of February the great KOH race would take place: the "Nitto Race" . Shortly before 8 o'clock in the morning, and with 13 hours ahead to go 3 laps, the first 2 cars would come out. It was Paul Horschel (# 19) and Jason Scherer (# 76). I would be recording at the start until Bailey Cambell (# 35) and JP Gomez (# 4482) came out. Right after, I would go to the "Backdoor" to place myself in a good place to record the first participants to go down the steps. Around 9:30 the first participants would start to descend. The first would be Paul Horschel (# 19) followed by Jason Scherer (# 76) and Randy Slawson (# 4848), second and third, respectively.
The race for the "Backdoor" passed without any incidents. The most remarkable thing was what happened to the car of Gary Ferravanti Sr (# 44) that stopped him just as he was going down the step. I think the gas pump failed him. In the end he managed to start it but he ended up leaving as the car did not respond as expected.
Right after that I would go to "Jackhammer" and the first one I recorded there would be Mike Bergman (# 33) followed by Jason Blanton (# 966). The head of the race had already passed in the first round. The one that had problems was Levi Shirley (# 81), being stuck in a rock having to get out of the car until in 2 occasions to be able to hook the winch. You have to remember that Levi is alone in the car and he has to do everything by himself. Bailey Cole (# 4454) also had problems in the second round when he was stuck in a rock step breaking the cable of his winch several times.
 
A little before 2 o'clock noon came the helicopter of the organization which carries the camera recording the aerial plans, that meant that the head of the race came very close in its second round. The first to appear for the "Jackhammer" would be Jason Scherer (# 76), hot on his heels would come Randy Slawson (# 4848), but the car of John D. Moul (# 14) hindered the passage and had to find another place to pass, being the step even more spectacular and taking the car to the limit. Those who also had to take this step would be Erik Miller (# 21) and Wayland Cambell (# 3). Little by little, John D. Moul (# 14) could go descending by the "Jackhammer" but a breakdown in his engine forced him to retire. In the area where I was recording there were not many problems for the participants. A pity that Randy Slawson's car broke shortly before entering the finish line because in almost the entire race he was in the top 3 and a clear candidate to win the race.
In this race the participation was 108 cars, 104 cars took the start and only 32 cars finished!
The last 3 out of the 14 hours they had to complete the 3 laps of the route. The race would be won by Jason Scherer (# 76) with a time of 7h 8min 25s. The second would be Erik Miller (# 21) with a time of 7h 20min 12s. The third place was achieved by Wayland Cambell (# 3) with a time of 7h 21min 55s.



PERSONAL CONCLUSION

After many years watching the race through the internet, this year I was finally able to see it live and what is most important to me : to be able to record it! After 10 years, which is the time I have been recording 4x4 tests, I was able to attend with one of the most important races in the world with my press accreditation. Who was going to tell me 10 years ago that I was going to travel to the United States to record a 4x4 test . The race in general exceeded my expectations enormously, I never imagined that there was so much movement of participating vehicles. Not to mention the amount of audience to see the test. In a word: INCREDIBLE!



THANKS TO...

I want to thank my official sponsors: Euro4x4parts and Marketing Off-Road for the support received for my trip to the United States. Without them the trip would not have been the same. I also want to thank my friend Cecilio who has been my partner in the trip and thanks to him everything has been easier. I appreciate your help to prepare the trip and the instance in the United States and Mexico. And of course, my friend Sergio and his wife Jeni, for the inestimable help, there in the United States, for taking us to the King and leaving us his car so we can move around.



THANK YOU VERY MUCH TO ALL
Javi4x4