By Jon Crowley
King of the Hammers is kinda my thing. I love to rock crawl in a UTV and I have raced King of the Hammers many times with three podiums under my belt (2103, 2015 and 2017). Each year, I get the itch to race, and try my hardest to stay away. This doesn’t always work, but I have focused on the media-side of the race in 2016 and 2018.
For the 2019 King of the Hammers, I will once again focus on covering the event instead of racing. Leading up to the event, I will try to get out to Johnson Valley with some of the top racers to pre-run with them and give you a behind the scenes look at their program.
So far, I have made one trip in early December and I was lucky enough to spread that out amongst three factory backed teams that are racing for different manufacturers.
It is always interesting to see how different teams approach this race, and this trip was no exception. Each vehicle has its pluses and minuses in different circumstances. It is interesting to note that all three teams are racing 72-inch wide long travel UTVs. Blurton and Anderson with factory long travel from Can-Am and Polaris, and Weller with Cognito Motorsports long travel added to his YXZ1000R. It wasn’t long ago that I thought long travel while being better in the desert, was a detriment in the rocks. I am starting to change my mind after this trip.
No Limit – Can-Am Maverick X3 RC
Phil Blurton and Beau Judge are a factory Can-Am team who blasted onto desert racing scene two years ago. Since then, the have wrapped up two consecutive Best in the Desert Championships (see BLURTON REPEATS AS BEST IN THE DESERT UTV PRODUCTION TURBO CLASS CHAMPION IN CAN-AM MAVERICK X3). King of the Hammers is a little different story for Phil and Beau. 2018 was their first time racing, and although they finished in the top ten, they knew they could do much better.
Last year, Phil and Beau had very little time to prepare with only a few days to pre-run in Johnson Valley during race week. This year, they are on a mission. This trip was their second to Johnson Valley this year, and they already have 5 solid days of pre-running in the bag. They have not only run the entire course from last year, but have done most trails 2-6 times!
Weller Racing – Yamaha YXZ1000R
Jason Weller and Kyle Anderson teamed up four years ago to race a Yamaha YXZ1000R. Since then, they have entered two YXZs in the race with Kyle making a top ten finish in 2018.
For 2019, they are back to one vehicle with Kyle jumping back into the co-dog seat and Jason behind the wheel. This team has great experience rock crawling in a YXZ and knows what it takes to get it to the finish line.
Ronnie Anderson – Polaris RZR XP Turbo S
While certainly not new to racing UTVs, Ronnie Anderson has never rock crawled before. He spent a few days in Johnson Valley under the tutelage of Reid Nordin from Walker Evans Racing and picked it up quickly.
With the right person as his co-dog and a few more days practice, Ronnie could be a contender.
Testing other vehicles in Johnson Valley
Yamaha Wolverine X2
While I was there, I also tested out a few vehicles. The first was our 2018 Yamaha Wolverine X2. We have done a build on this rec-utility vehicle and have put it through some more extreme riding terrain that show this vehicle with a dump bed can do more that just trail rides (see 200 MILE MOJAVE DESERT ADVENTURE RIDE and YAMAHA WOLVERINE X2 ROCK CRAWLING REVIEW).
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Taking the rec-utility @yamahamotorusa Wolverine X2 up Boulderdash in Johnson Valley. This trail was part of the King of the Hammers course last year and we decided to try it out while pre-running with @wellerracing With 9-inches of wheel travel and 11-inches of ground clearance, you sometimes have to get creative. One thing for sure, the Wolverine X2 is a billy goat! #KOH2019 #kingofthehammers #johnsonvalley #Wolverinex2 #REALizeYourAdventure @yamahaoutdoors #LikeButter
Running up Chocolate Thunder in our Wolverine X2. This “trail” is always part of King of the Hammers, and is pretty extreme for a rec-utility vehicle. Our Wolverine X2 has two accessories that make rock crawling like this possible: Factory UTV UHMW skid plate and 30-inch GMZ Race Products Inc. Kahuna tires mounted on HiPer Wheels. Watch and see how the Wolverine X2 does.More details: https://www.utvguide.net/yamaha-wolverine-x2-phase-1-build-and-test/
Posted by UTV Guide on Saturday, December 15, 2018
Can-Am Maverick Sport RC
The Can-Am Maverick Sport RC is a new vehicle for 2019. It is based on the new Maverick Sport, but has a few modifications that make it more adept at rock crawling. Upgraded FOX shocks, HMW skid plate, 30-inch tires, 64-inch stance and a winch make this Maverick Sport into a RC (Rock Crawler) model. We broke it in at the Sxs Adventure Rally in stock trim, then tried it with 33-inch tires. Check out our first review:
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@reidnordin piloting our @canam Maverick Sport X RC down Outer Limits in Johnson Valley. We have upgraded tires to a 33x10R15 @itptireswheels Coyote tire mounted on @walkerevansracing beadlock wheel. Stock engine and clutch. #KOH2019 #KingoftheHammers #canam #RockCrawler #JohnsonValley
For this trip, we were running a set of new 33x10R15 ITP Coyote tire mounted on Walker Evans Racing beadlock wheels.