By Erik Jokinen
To say we had an uphill battle ahead of us is the understatement of the year!
The 2018 King Of The Hammers UTV race presented by Can-Am Off-Road and HRC left the line on Wednesday morning at 8am. The race course covered 134 miles of some of the toughest terrain in the country, and 115 racers paid to get their chance to conquer it.
But let’s back up a few days…
We arrived on the lake bed a week in advance planning to get as much seat time in as we could.
Day 1 – unloading and pit setup.
Day 2 – Shock Tuning with ADS Racing Shocks
Day 3 – Shock Tuning and final adjustments to the new CT Race Worx Suspension System
Day 4 – Pre-running Lap 1
Day 5 – Pre-running Resolution & Backdoor
Day 6- Final adjustments, packing the car, packing pit boxes
RACE DAY – I woke up at 5am after 4 hours of sleep, ready to Race!
As we climbed into the car at our staging position the air was electric. It was time to show the world what the #901 TORQ Locker Can Am Maverick X3 can do. We took off from the start line in 109th position.
My co driver and close friend Michael Maskalans kept us on course through the dust on lap 1. Shortly into lap 1 I started to realize the decision I made not to qualify was a poor choice. We passed so many broken and stopped cars within the first 25 miles I lost count. However all the extra time we spent fine tuning our car and dialing in the shocks started to pay off. Mike and I rolled in and out of the first large rock section, Cougar Buttes at approx race mile 25, with absolutely no issues.
The return trip back to Remote pit 1 was a ton of fun. At pit 1 we tossed in 5 gallons of gas for safe measure. Our pit crew did awesome and we were back on course in no time.
The section between pit 1 and main pit had to be my favorite. Wide open desert sections with multiple line options, whoops and fast corners all ending at Melville Dry Lake. In this section we saw a top speed of 85 in pre running here and 75 in the race only due to the dust. A stock Maverick X3 is unlikely to reach these speeds with stock suspension and shocks without serious damage. Our CT Race Worx heavy duty suspension and extensive shock tuning with ADS is how we can do what we do in the desert and in the rocks.
Next was Resolution trail a short gnarly down hill canyon that ends at Backdoor. The famous waterfall on Backdoor is nearly 15 ft tall and on some lines and vertical. We had to drop down the massive waterfall. Pre running this obstacle days in advance paid off, we walked down the waterfall on our pre-planned line smoothly.
We rolled into main pit to top off the fuel and a more thorough check of the car. The crew quickly checked the lugnuts, re torqued one axle nut. Everything else was working perfectly.
The start of lap 2 runs through the short course in hammer town, then a short desert section before the first big rock trails.
Mike and I have spent a lot of time rock crawling back east so we were looking forward to making some good time in the rocks. Our MRT – Motoracetire.com provided the traction we needed to climb almost anything, and our new HD fabricated arms from CT Race Worx not only gave us the strength to withstand a pounding in these huge rocks, but also the additional ground clearance made it possible to take harder lines than ever before. Combine that with the strength of our full skid plate by Factory UTV and this X3 was unstoppable. Bottlenecks and stuck cars in front of us are where we spent a lot of time. Mike got out of the car often to help clear the trail ahead so we could continue on. We definitely put our Factor 55 thimble, Bigfoot Winch Ropes, soft shackle and recovery straps to some hard use.
As we rolled up to the bottom of Chocolate thunder we saw a line forming on the left, so in typical NY driver fashion we decided to find another line. Mike jumped out and we started up the far right line, a line I’ve never attempted. I gave it two tries and then we pulled cable. Taking the right line, even with winiching, proved to be the most efficient. We watched the others struggle and one car even rolled. The choice to take the right line netted us at least 2-3 positions.
After Chocolate is Jack North trail. This is where our day would take a turn for the worst. We immediately encountered traffic ahead of us so my co driver jumped to action. We as a team feel it’s better to lend a hand clearing the trail for everyone’s benefit than to sit in our car watching.
Jack North is an uphill trail littered with loose rocks and giant boulders. As Mike assisted some of the other teams, I progressed up the trail at a very slow pace. Sometimes when you are in a tight bunch like this it easy to lose track of what’s ahead of you and that’s exactly what took us out. I attempted to make a pass on the left of another driver and that put my 32″ tires under a large undercut rock. Not realizing I attempted to climb it and broke a driverside front inner axleshaft. Changing an axle shaft on the trail requires pulling the differential to open it up and remove the broken inner shaft, such a trail fix was not possible in the time remaining in the race. I immediately felt a rush of disappointment. We had worked so hard and come so far. We started 109th and made our way up to around 35th position.
As we started to pull our winch to get off the line our good buddy Scott Decker co driver for Erik Miller came up to assist. We quickly moved our broken car offline to enable the driver’s behind to pass.
The decision was made that we couldn’t drive or walk to the next pit, make the necessary repair and continue on to remote pit 2b before the 3:30 deadline. So we would call our race at the top of Jack North. We spent the next hour and a half helping the remainder of the teams through the difficult section.
As we did all throughout the day, we called to our pit crew using our new 100 watt Rugged Radios to fill them in. 4 pm marked the close of the UTV race and the end of our adventure. We turned around and limped our way back down the trail to meet up with Cora Jokinen at the bottom. The drive back to Hammer Town was slow and it gave me a lot of time to reflect on one of the most amazing days of racing I’ve ever had.
As a UTV team we continue to grow with every race. This is only our 3 event in this class and I can’t be more proud of what this small group of friends, family and partners have accomplished. We couldn’t do what we do without the help of some of the best people in the world.
I can’t wait for the next event Round 1 Ultra 4 East Coast AOAA.