February 4, 2016 (Johnson Valley, CA) — At the start of the Polaris RZR KOH UTV King of the Hammers, all eyes were on six-time KOH UTV Champ Mitch Guthrie. The question was—could the quiet, unassuming racer from Glendora, Calif., who had dominated the class for more than half a decade, net a record seventh win?
The answer? Not if Blake Van de Loo from Phoenix, Arizona is in town. Van de Loo, who won the UTV class of the 2015 Baja 1000, used his desert racing skills to quickly close the gap on Guthrie on the first lap. “I definitely took some risks in the desert,” said Van de Loo, who was the seventh driver to leave the start line—five positions behind Guthrie. “I pushed a little harder than I probably should have, but I kept it in control, and we got out in front and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Van de Loo and Guthrie then headed into the second lap neck-and-neck. “We caught Mitch after lap one, but then we were battling in the rocks going back and forth,” said Van de Loo. “Mitch is such a classy driver though. We’d catch up and he’d let us by and then he’d catch us, and we’d let him go by. We traded positions about 10 times.”
It wasn’t until Guthrie broke a front heim on his lower A-Arm coming down Jackhammer that Van De Loo took the lead for good. Guthrie estimates the mechanical cost him about 40 minutes—an amount that let Van de Loo easily run away with the race.
In the end, Van de Loo tackled the 115-mile course in a time of 4:22:53, 30 minutes faster than the next competitor. After recovering from the mechanical, Guthrie battled his way back to 5th. An impressive feat considering two-thirds of the field DNF’d, including 2016 Dakar Rally winner Marcus Patronelli.
On whether or not Guthrie was surprised that Van de Loo was the eventual winner, the former champ stated that “absolutely not.”
“Those were the two guys (Van de Loo and second place finisher Brandon Simms) that I was worried about at the start of the race, and they both came in ahead of me, so congrats to them.”
The victory marks Van de Loo’s first win in four starts and only the third time in the eight-year history of the UTV event that there has been a new winner.
1. Blake Van de Loo: 4:22:53
2. Branden Sims: 4:55:19
3. Chad Hughes: 5:05:52
4. Dean Bulloch: 5:11:44
5. Mitch Guthrie: 5:14:19