By Hubert Rowland
So last year was my first King of the Hammers UTV Race attempt and first time riding in the desert at all. I learned a lot, but we timed out by a long ways and at times thought this is pretty dumb.
But once a racer, always a racer.
Now I know my place and know I’m not a front runner. But I don’t know I can finish.
So for 2019 KOH my goal was just to finish within time. But then again coming from Nitro Circus finishing is a given.
So I had that in my head. But I don’t see the rest of the Nitro crew out trying KOH. Maybe with good reason.
So learning a lot for 2018, I wanted to build a rock crawler RZR for 2019. I took a wrecked RZR XP Turbo and asked my friend Adam Woodlee at Wide Open Design In Murfreesboro Tennessee if they could build such a thing. They are very well known for building high end v8 rock crawlers, rock bouncers, and ultra 4 machines. So for them to build a scaled down RZR version was not a problem. RZR bouncers are very common here in the southeast where I am from.
So with Adam pumped and agreeing to help me with the chassis and body end of the build. We planned it out cad drawing the full machine. The advantages we planned with the chassis were:
- boat bottom sloped sides
- Wheel base change.
- Lower seating
- Fuel tank toward the front
- Stronger tubing and mounting.
The downfall with building some of the best working cleanest machines out there is time. His shop stays backed up months at a time and KOH was coming fast.So they did some juggling and fit my RZR crawler project in exactly 3 weeks before KOH.
Note I still had to drive out from Tennessee year and Prerun.
So we build full custom RZR crawler in 2 weeks working late every night and 48 hours straight the last 2 days.
We went to start it to put it on the trailer. And it wouldn’t start and run with out giving it gas.
With very little time until I needed to leave I took it to my shop to wire a few things like lights, radios, helmet pumper. And install bcc skid plate. And load the trailer.
After hours of trying thing to get it running right. Changing sensors, ecu , wire routing , fuel pump I said oh well I know someone they may can help and they are on the way to KOH.
So I loaded it up barely running and didn’t take a spare RZR because I only wanted to run the one we built.
So I drove 26 hours to Lake Havasu to Mark Queen / Queen Racing. He knows a ton about utvs and tuning and is the go to guy in the west when it comes to tuning. With his knowledge he pointed me to try 3 things which all got the RZR crawler running top notch. 2 sensor wires were backwards and a fuel pump leak inside the tank.
Now that I was fixed I headed across the desert to Hammertown. My goal was to be there Sunday which would give me a week to prerun and test. Well I got to Hammertown Wednesday evening. UTV qualifier was Saturday.
Race was Sunday.
Luckily the race course was similar to 2018. Just change direction on the first loop.
Being how I had pre ran the whole course last year and raced. I wasn’t as stressed to prerun the whole course again.
Just put time on the RZR crawler and check it over.
After some prerunning I went to FOX to get some shock settings changed to make it ride just a little better since I was going to be in the RZR for 7-10 hours.
Oh yeah and I needed a co driver.
So a friend from the south east Wes King was coming out to race the hill climb shootout. And he mentioned he would be pumped to co drive. He was advised by wide open design. He’s one of the best hill climb guys in the south east. So he would be great help in the rock sections.
So after some shock work. Ws and I went for a quick run through the desert just to feel out the RZR. All felt great.
So then I qualified not so great 89th…
When I came off course they said the timers messed up and counted my time wrong. But I wasn’t stressed. I
Rather not be in the way of faster people. And it feels good passing people early on I think. LOL.
So race day came we took off 2 at a time every 30 seconds. We grabbed the hole shot and took off for the lake bed. Made some passes feeling awesome across the desert. Then it happened. We blew a belt 10 miles in. Which is unheard of for me. I have machines with 7000 miles on the original belt and raced the full desert series in 2018 on 2 belts.
We got to pit 1A took on fuel and took on a steady pace. Made a couple passes. Co driver Wes was amazed at the scenery and the grave yard of broken UTVs through out the course.
He then understood why I was driving a little more cautious. Race to finish and we are a long ways from anything.
We worked our way through lap 1 and crossed the desert to the rock side of the desert. Where we came down Chocolate Thunder and went up Jack North. This is where the new RZR crawler shined. We came up on some traffic jams. But with Wes spotting great lines we drove right around them. The System3 XCR350 tire’s loved the rocks gripping and ripping the whole time. The SuperATV suspension and axles never gave an inch.
We made it around the desert to pit 2b our last pit. With the help from Wes’s buddy Kelly and the guys at Jagged X. We took on fuel for the last time and a couple spare belts we had blown 4 at this point and was due to vent tube collapsing. So the belt couldn’t get enough air.
We we pulled the cover off and took off toward Outer Limits. Where when we got into the canyon we had 2.5 hour till cut off time. And my goal was to be done before dark.
We were making it fine steady pace until we got to the last turn and roughest part. And the shit hit the fan.
With broken people in the main line we tried to winch up a ledge but broke the winch rope. The clutch over heated and locked up the bearing and wouldn’t let it shift. Which then I weakened the shift cable. Wes did an amazing job at winch spots and solely got us through the section. Note to self we need lower low gear.
With 45 mins to make it down Spooners and 30 miles across the desert to the finish. Time was getting slim.
We swung through the last pit and grabbed a spare belt from buddy James Hill and Img motorsports. And we took off down Spooners. Then tipped on our side a bad line choice by me.
While winching back over we were passed by Sara Price and Erica Sacks. Which kinda made me feel better they qualified 8th. And knowing we were beating others that qualified way better and that were way faster than us. Just made it feel like we weren’t doing that bad.
So we got our RZR tured back on it’s wheels and continued toward the finish. And wow they made us go the long way around. Seeing Hammertown to the left it’s hard to not the just make a b-line straight there. But we followed the LeadNav GPS line and took the long way. And made it across the finish 1 hour after the cut off time.
Shook hands with King of the Hammers organizer Dave Cole. We pulled on stage to where they were watching the Super Bowl on the big screen. I still have no clue who’s was playing who won or where it was at. All I knew is in a month a goal of building a RZR crawler, racing King of the Hammers and finishing The hardest 1 day race in the country was now a reality.
It all came together 100% cause of great people with great skills. All having the same mindset of failure is not an option. Thanks to all involved and that cheered us on.
Wide Open Design
A D Triple S motorsports