By Jon Crowley, UTVGuide.net
The 2016 King of the Hammers UTV Race is the first time that I haven’t either driven or co-dogged for this race. I thoroughly enjoyed the stress-free weeks leading up to the race, and being on the lakebed without having all the last minute things to do. But it was tough on race day to not be in a car.
I got my first look at the course on Thursday, when CartoTracks.com released the map online. I quickly surveyed the course and although the length was about the same at 115 miles, the difficulty had gone way down. Instead of going up Wrecking Ball and Jackhammer, UTVs would be going down them. Jackhammer was a huge bottleneck for the 2015 race (see King of the Hammers 2015) that required several must winch climbs. In addition, the course would bypass Hwy 19/20 for UTVs and also go down Aftershock. The course was certainly not a cake-walk, but I predicted to KOH media liaison Emily Miller that we would see the first finisher by 1PM.
I had a little issue on Saturday while heading to Johnson Valley in my motor home. Just in Sacramento I turned off to to pick up Paul and Brett from Harts UTV and was rear-ended by a big rig hauling water. The impact shoved the trailer off the ball and then went through the radiator and into the 8.3L Cummins. The motor home was toast and the trailer could no longer be towed by the coupler. After sorting everything out with insurance and towing, I went back home to figure out a plan B. Thankfully a friend had a trailer I could borrow and another had room in his 5th wheel for Paul and Brett, so I ended up in my cabover camper and arrived about 24 hours after I was supposed to.
We unloaded and joined in with the boys from Jagged X and High Lifter over at Turkey Claw. This is a fun little trail that is right next to camp and pretty tough.
Our FOX Edition RZR XP 1000 on Turkey Claw
Monday we ran out to pit 1, then did some of the loop out there. No real rock crawling, but certainly not fast desert. We ended up at the sand hill after leaving pit 1 again. The sand hill can always be a game changer and I love this spot. There is one alternate line a few miles back that is safer, but takes at least 5 more minutes. Then down at the sand hill, there is another alternate up a short canyon that is a mix of rocks and sand. The sand hill is by far the fastest route and I hit it in my RZR XP Turbo smooth the first shot, then got stuck on the second attempt. After that I tried the canyon. I go through, but it took a few back-ups and I would have lost several minutes. To do the canyon fast, you need to carry some momentum, and that can be risky.
On Tuesday, we loaded up with Harts UTV, Team Ducky Racing and High Lifter with the intent of running up Jack North, then down Jackhammer. We picked off Jack North pretty easy. All the cars were running great and I was especially impressed with the guys from High Lifter. For being down south mud guys, they did a great job in the rocks.
After running Jack North, we attempted to follow the course and come down Jackhammer. We made it all the way to the tough spot when we ran into a large group of buggies coming up the trail. The trail is MUCH tougher coming up and it appeared that it was going to be a while before we could get through. Team Ducky squeaked through, but the rest of us turned around and headed back to camp another way. While the course is completely open for anyone to run on Monday and Tuesday, it was a bit disappointing to have a large group running the wrong direction.
On Wednesday afternoon, we headed into Hammertown to check out the cars coming through tech inspection. In a sea of Polaris RZRs, it was refreshing to see some other manufacturers represented. Two cars that caught my eye with the 2016 Kawasaki Teryx with Sara Price and Erica Sacks and 2016 Yamaha YXZ1000R that would be driven by Jason Weller of Weller Racing.
The “Teryx Girls” would be the only all-female team to run and this would be their first attempt at racing King of the Hammers. They were also the only team running a Kawasaki Teryx. Weller Racing was one of 3 or 4 teams running a Yamaha YXZ1000R. After attending the Yamaha press event for the Yamaha YXZ1000R (see Yamaha YXZ1000R Review), I didn’t think there was a chance that anyone could run a YXZ1000R in the rocks. But Weller Racing teamed up with Tube Works to regear the YXZ transmission. End result was a 30% lower 1-5 gear with an additional 40% lower 1st. This allowed them to adjust gear ratio for the larger tires, and also turn 1st gear into more of a granny setup. Now we were talking!
Van de Loo’s RZR XP1000 in Tech Inspection
Blake Van de Loo was another guy I was going to keep my eye on. We teamed up for the first time in 2013 with me in the driver’s seat and finished just 16 seconds behind Guthrie (see King of the Hammers 2013). Then in 2014, we swapped seats and he drove his current XP1000. We had some new car bugs to work out and ended 5th after a lot of adversity, but I knew he was super fast in the desert (see King of the Hammers 2014). With his seasoned car, I knew he could be someone that could dethrone the King.
Race day came, and I had Paul and Brett from HartsUTV.com head out past Pit 1 to get some pictures and video. I headed over to RM 2. Right out of the shoot, Guthrie was in the lead by a decent margin. And Blake was charging hard having gained a few spots already. Being out front of the dust was a big advantage.
Dust and Traffic were Big Issues Past Pit 1
Van de Loo gained spots and took the lead in the desert around RM 20. But then Guthrie passed him back at Pit 1 (second stop at this pit) when Blake stopped for fuel and to repair a broken sway bar. By RM 50 Van de Loo was back in the lead and Guthrie was right on his tail.
Van de Loo Ahead of Guthrie at RM 50
At the Sand Hill (RM 57.5), Guthrie took the Sand Hil and Van de Loo opted for the alternate line in the canyon right next to it. With a clean run on either side, the Sand Hill is the fastest route, but not without potential pitfalls. But Guthrie had pre-run the Sand Hill several times and knew what it would take. Van de Loo came through quick as well, but lost a little time with the tougher canyon.
Unfortunately, after shooting RM2, the Sand Hill, and then Wrecking Ball and Jack North, I filled up my 8Gb SD card. After switching to a new card, that first card disappeared somehow. In 10 years of shooting, this is the first time I have ever done anything like this.
After the Sand Hill, I shot over to Wrecking Ball where I caught Guthrie leading Van de Loo by just a few minutes. From there, the headed to Chocolate Thunder where Guthrie played it safe and winched, and Van de Loo went for it and made an epic pass on a tough line and got out front again.
From Chocolate Thunder, then headed back over to Jack North. This part of the course was a little confusing. Partly because the huge wind storm earlier in the week blew away most of the course markers, and also because the course crossed paths. Van de Loo made a wrong turn and Guthrie jumped ahead again before heading up Jack North.
On Jack North Van de Loo was literally on Guthrie’s bumper the entire way up the hill. I ran up the hill to catch the fight and these guys are not only great competitors, but also know how to have fun during the race. I almost hurled when I reached the top after sprinting up hill while shooting them is several spots. I would love to share those photos, but the chip has disappeared. With a new chip in the camera, I ran up and down Jack North a few more times up to about the 10th place racer.
Dean Bulloch in 3rd Place on Jack North
Branden Sims in 4th Place on Jack North and finished on the podium in 2nd Place
Chad Hughes came through Jack North in 6th place and finished on the podium in 3rd
Meanwhile, Paul and Brett had moved to Jackhammer to catch the action coming down the hill. Guthrie was in the lead ahead of Van de Loo right before the first big drop off and ended up with a broken heim joint on his driver’s side lower a-arm.
Van de Loo passes Guthrie on Jackhammer after breakdown
Van de Loo in the lead on Jackhammer
Blake now way ahead of the pack runs away with the race and finishes first.
Dean Bulloch made it into Second Place on Jackhammer then Broke farther down from Guthrie
Guthrie Fixed his car and headed down Jackhammer
Guthrie was able to get his RZR fixed by stealing a heim off another part. The repair was not perfect, so they took it easy for the rest of the race just to get it across the finish line. Sims passes Guthrie at Devil’s Slide and takes it straight to the finish line for a second place.
Branden Sims on Jackhammer
After Bulloch fixes his Wildcat Sport, he and Guthrie would battle to the finish line. Although Guthrie crossed the finish line physically in 4th, Bulloch would claim 4th place on corrected time.
Chad Hughes on Jackhammer
Chad Hughes would get past Bulloch and Guthrie after Jackhammer and finished the podium out in 3rd place.
Jason Weller would finish 7th in his Yamaha YXZ1000R. And Erik Miller would finish 9th and then top the podium in the Ultra4 race in Friday.
2016 King of the Hammers UTV Race Results:
|Pos.||DRIVER||CAR #||Start Time||LAP1||LAP2||Overall Time||Penalty Time||Notes|
|1||BLAKE VAN DE LOO||1919||8:01:30||9:42:42||12:24:23||4:22:53|
|10||RICHARD (BUZZ) BRONSEMA||4917||8:11:00||10:19:51||13:54:18||5:43:18|
|18||Sheldon Creed||4974||8:14:00||10:19:10||13:41:51||7:42:51||7:42:51||135 Minute Penalty|
|21||ROBBY GORDON||4977||8:02:00||9:53:39||14:05:59||8:18:59||8:18:59||135 Minute Penalty|
|22||TODD ROMANO||4933||8:09:30||10:10:22||DNF||8:06:30||Unofficial finish|
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–Van de Loo was the 7th driver off the line in the morning and by the time he finished the first lap (the desert section) he had moved into first.
– Van de Loo said other factors affected him on the course like the wind.The wind blew the markers off the course, it made it really tough. Johnson Valley is littered with roads. When you come to an intersection, sometimes you dont know where to go.
–Mitch Guthrie on finishing the race after a mechanical. I said were done and Junior (Mitchs 19 year old son, who has been his co-driver for six years) said, nope were not done, we are going to finish this. And then I said, all right here we go. I honestly dont know how the vehicle held up.
– Guthrie on battling with Chad Hughes for the third position at the end of the race. I was trying to save the car, so we were like, we just have to finish, but then I saw Hughes go by and hes a buddy of mine, so then when we got to the dry lake, I can do like 85-90 mph, and we reeled him and then I was like, I cant just let him beat us. We were just back and forth from that moment on.
–Desert legend Rob MacCachren teamed up with young gun Baily Cole. MacCachren raced the desert section, moving from the 44th position off the start line to about 6th after the first lap. During the pit stop, Cole got behind the wheel for the rock crawling portion. It was MacCachrens first UTV race. I respect them (UTV vehicles), but they are totally different, said MacCachren. They are nimble and quick, but they are a lot of work to take care of. You have to be really picky with your line. With a trophy truck you pick a line and go, with a UTV you have to be a lot more careful. The team finished 6th.
–It was second-place finisherBranden Sims second podium at KOHhe also finished 2nd in 2014. I loved the desert, said Simms. I started 38th, so I had a long way to go–to not get caught in any bottlenecks. The desert section was fast, fun. Im obviously a desert racer so the desert was the best for me.
–The son of 1976 Olympic gold medalist and TV celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce,Burt Jenner races Stadium Super Trucks, the Baja 1000 and competes in the X Games. One of his biggest loves is coming to King of the Hammers, though. Jenner, who started off the line in 8th, unfortunately didnt finish.
–Competing in his first KOH was Dakar winner Marcus Patronelli who also DNFd– proving that even the best racers in the world have a difficut time finishing a KOH race.
–Ladies in the house! The only woman competitor was former X Games Moto X rider Sarah Price. While Price had a great desert section, she had a mechanical in the rocks and didnt finish, but gave a respectable effort in her Kawasaki Teryx.More Resources:
- Yamaha YXZ1000R Finishes Top 10 in 2016 King of Hammers
- Polaris RZRs Sweep Podium at King of the Hammers
- Blake Van de Loo Takes the Crown at the 2016 Polaris RZR UTV King of the Hammers
- Ultra4 Racing
- Polaris RZR XP Turbo
Past King of the Hammers Coverage: