Rally dos Sertões: Team HRC back in action for the thrills of the Dos Sertoes. | 22.08.2014

Verva Street Racing: Carlos Sainz and Peugeot 2008 DKR premiere in Warsaw. | 21.08.2014

Rallyraid: The new Schlesser customer racer - 4x4 Mercedes instead of buggy. | 21.08.2014

Rally dos Sertões: Top brands and great beasts in bikes, quads and UTVs. | 21.08.2014

Baja Poland: "We have prepared an extra attractions for fans in this year". | 21.08.2014

Asia Cross Country PHOTOS: Impressions Asian Rally Thailand-Cambodia (71). | 19.08.2014

Asia Cross Country: Outlander PHEV completes Rally for second straight year. | 19.08.2014

Welcome to the marathonrally.com newssection. Here you can find the article you selected. For a full selection of news please click on "NEWS & LIVEREPORTS", for older articles use the search function in top of the right navigation.

King of the Hammers: Behind the scenes of the Californian extreme event.

By Robb Pritchard: Looking out over the vast tent and trailer city set up in the eastern Californian desert it's hard to believe that only 6 short years ago this massive event consisted of just a few friends out for a fun weekend's 'trailin'.

From such humble beginnings to a week-long festival with 150 vehicles in the main race, a separate event for more 'stock' trucks as well as one for bikes, with competitors coming from as far away as Japan, Italy, Germany and Belgium... there's not just dust and petrol in the desert air around Hammertown, you can really feel that King of the Hammers is something special.

"With 15 guys out on the trails of course we all wanted to say 'Hey, I'm faster' or 'my rig is more capable that yours' so a race started," says event founder Dave Cole. "I thought about doing something with lots of rock crawling, but linking up all the trails with sections of fast desert racing. Basically an event that no one has done before with cars that no one has built before... and no rules!"

And perhaps it's those last little words that are the key to KoH's meteoric rise in popularity. No rules means a unique class of vehicles has been spawned especially for this event, known as Ultra4. The only real requirement is 4-wheel drive, other than that, it really is anything goes.

Some have portals, a few run with IFS, everyone has lockers, most have spaceframe chassis with bodywork kept to an absolute minimum so the wheels are as exposed as possible to scramble over the largest rocks. Suspension is generally coil-over with bazooka sized shocks and for torque when crawling and speed out in the open desert power comes from large V8s which put out around 650bhp. Some even manage a staggering 800bhp!

"A Hammer truck has got to work well in the rocks and and the fast sections so it has to be a compromise," explained Shannon Campbell the only 2-time winner.

"It doesn't have the tail weight that you would want in a desert truck which makes it buck and kick in the 'whoop' sections, but it works well in the rocks. This year I am running with a thing from the army called 'tyre balls' which keep the tyre up so I can run at race speed even with a flat," he added. "It's funny to think that just a few years ago it started with just a bunch of guys having fun... and now we are developing stuff for the military!"

And the course for these beasts... Well, fittingly for some of the world's ultimate competition 4x4s, it's widely regarded to be the toughest on the planet.

An 80 mile long lap run twice adds up to 160 miles of treacherous rock-strewn mountain tracks, open desert where speeds of over 100mph are common and 22 insane rock crawls where car sized rocks wait to bash axles, smash transmissions and create a unique spectacle for the crowds of spectators.

These sections are known as the 'Hammers' which is where the event gets its name and it's here that you get to see the incredible sight of cars on their sides scuffling around like upended beetles trying to right themselves. And often, to appreciative applause, they do.

For anyone who followed the Dakar rally this year bright orange machines in the desert should be familiar sight and Indycar winner, NASCAR driver, 3-time Baja 1000 champ and Dakar hero Robby Gordon brought a lot of exposure to the event.

If any doubted his ability on the rocks all were silenced when he qualified an amazing 5th, even though he was complaining about an underpowered engine. However his race ended before most other competitors had even started... his Torchmate TTB buggy grinding to a halt with engine failure after just 14 miles.

Campbell's hopes of a good result also went up in dust right at the start when he took a wrong turn and spent what seemed like an eternity driving around in circles until he found someone to ask the way.

"But when I got back on the track there was just so much dirt from the other runners and I just got caught up in it and smashed too many things and got too many punctures on rocks from trying to get by."

Although a third victory was out of the question, his was the come-back drive of the event as amazingly he managed to battle back up to 3rd. "For sure I didn't think that there would be any way I’d be in the top 10 but I guess this race is so brutal for everyone and the attrition so high... so keep on truckin’ and you’ll end up in there!"

Behind the favourites were a select bunch of intrepid foreigners who had made an epic half way around the world trek to the desert. Axel Burmann, well known on European Challenge events such as the Croatia Trophy, didn't have such a successful trip over the ocean though.

In his Jeep-based buggy he DNF'ed on the qualifying run after hitting a rock hard which broke the hub and twisted the axle. In the race itself he had over-heating problems and decided that it was just too dangerous to stay out on the course driving slowly when other competitors were tearing past at over 100mph in the blinding dust. "But it was a special experience" he smiled.

Italy's Fabio Manno had a but more to write home about, "We were the only European car to finish but it was not easy, the race was very brutal!" he said. "We wanted to change a flat tyre but we found that we had smashed the spare tyre somewhere so we had to drive 8 miles through the rocks to get back to the pits. Like this we found out that the BFG Crawlers are very strong, and so are the Walker Evans wheels..."

"Also it doesn't help if your co-driver wants you to drive for 2 miles the wrong way down the course! But the car is very good in the rocks and the Tom Allen PSC steering was brilliant. We finished 37th, which out of 137 cars is not so bad! But next year I will do something to make the car faster in the desert. We were only touching 90miles an hour... and that is not enough!"

The 80 mile course is just a handful of miles from Death Valley, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, so it's quite understandable that they don't have live timing or FIA style real time GPS tracking... and actually the anticipation of not knowing exactly who is where gives another edge to the event. Also, because the cars are flagged off two at a time it's impossible to know who is really leading, or has won until at least a few have crossed the line.

Sporadic updates came over the loudspeakers from the commentators at a climb that was for some reason called Chocolate Thunder, for a long time relaying how big Erik Miller's lead was... but then Rick Mooneyham started to catch up... and fast. A ripple of excitement buzzed through the crowd as it came down from 10 minutes to 5... until three quarters of the way around the 2nd lap we heard that Miller had stopped...

Suddenly Mr Consistency, with two 3rds and a 4th in previous years was out in front in the 'physical' lead... and incredibly after nearly 6 hours of all-out competition on the extreme trails the top three were almost in sight of each other. All Mooneyham had to do was keep going... which is exactly what he didn't do, as a tyre deflated just a few moments later.

He tried to continue, to drag his truck to the finish, but once Miller got back past he had to stop and change it. 2nd was also about to be lost but less than a mile from the end Adler rolled heavily, broke a driveshaft and couldn't make it up the next climb... And so it was Miller who lurched uncertainly across the line to a bewildering finish, but it was a fire extinguisher that was sprayed before the champagne as his car was nearly on fire!!

"The car is finished," he gasped when he managed to get his breath, but he had to wait a few minutes to celebrate before it was pointed out that as he started after Mooneyham at the start he had to be the winner! "I couldn't have done it without my team," he beamed. "They were out prepping the truck until 6am. They came down with me and we've been in the desert practising as I'm from Maryland and we've got nothing like this, just trees, woods... nothing like the desert!"

13 minutes later Moonyham came in. "We definitely earned 2nd place today. The car was fast, maybe a bit too fast as apparently I couldn't keep it straight and hit rocks and wiped out 6 or 7 tyres. It was awesome, absolutely amazing race and I'll take second, especially against a driver of the calibre of Eric Miller. That guy is fast!"

137 cars started, 49 made it back before the cut off time as darkness fell, including Mike Klensin who scored points for artistic impression as he barrel-rolled over the line.

And so the dust settles, more names are etched into the growing KoH legend, more tyre rubber and body paint streak the rocks up the Hammers and already talk has started about how teams can make their cars faster, more reliable and better suited to tackling the course of 'The toughest one-day off-road race in the world'. If you've never heard of it before, stay tuned because this amazing event is only going to get bigger and better!!


Rally dos Sertões VIDEO: Equipe Mitsubishi Petrobras - test Mitsubishi ASX | 22.08.2014 21:18 | NEW

Rally dos Sertões: Team HRC back in action for the thrills of the Dos Sertoes. | 22.08.2014 20:59 | NEW

Verva Street Racing VIDEO: Official trailer for the unique Warsaw sport-event | 21.08.2014 20:41 | NEW

Verva Street Racing: Carlos Sainz and Peugeot 2008 DKR premiere in Warsaw. | 21.08.2014 20:25 | NEW

Rallyraid: The new Schlesser customer racer - 4x4 Mercedes instead of buggy. | 21.08.2014 18:32 | NEW

Rally dos Sertões: Top brands and great beasts in bikes, quads and UTVs. | 21.08.2014 18:01 | NEW

Carpathian Buggy Challenge: First Buggy-Challenge in Romanian mountains | 21.08.2014 17:33 | NEW

TORC STC 2014: Crandon welcomes Popcorn Sutton´s Sportsman Challenge | 21.08.2014 16:57 | NEW

TORC STC 2014: Fannin Motorsports suffers first ever DNF at RD8 in Crandon | 21.08.2014 16:20 | NEW

Baja Poland: "We have prepared an extra attractions for fans in this year". | 21.08.2014 15:51 | NEW

Donaldson CC: Sullwald tighten grip on SA´s Special Vehicle Class title chase | 19.08.2014 19:55 | NEW

TORC STC: Off-Road Syndicate takes Second in Crandon Off-Road Challenge | 19.08.2014 19:21 | NEW

Dakar Rally VIDEO: Historic - Top Gear´s Jeremy Clarkson riding Citroen ZX RR | 19.08.2014 18:32 | NEW

Asia Cross Country PHOTOS: Impressions Asian Rally Thailand-Cambodia (71). | 19.08.2014 17:47 | NEW

Asia Cross Country: Outlander PHEV completes Rally for second straight year. | 19.08.2014 15:51 |

Baja Poland: Baja Poland Ambassador Krzysztof Holowczyc - "I love this rally". | 18.08.2014 17:17 |

Dakar Rally 2015 VIDEO: El Martillo Racing Dodge Durango at the Dakar 2014 | 18.08.2014 16:32 |

Dakar Rally 2015: El Martillo Racing Dodge Durango Mexico dunes test trip | 18.08.2014 16:23 |

Donaldson CC: Horns breathe new life into Production Vehicle Championship. | 18.08.2014 15:29 |

Hungarian Baja PHOTOS: Impressions by MCH Photo / HB / Offroadsport (32) | 18.08.2014 14:32 |

Hungarian Baja VIDEO: The Baja with Nasser Al Attiyah on Saturday by CinCin | 18.08.2014 13:56 |

Hungarian Baja VIDEO: Nice impressions Hungarian Baja by Ábrahámhegy TV | 18.08.2014 13:44 |

Hungarian Baja VIDEO: Short impressions of water-crossing SS04 on Saturday | 18.08.2014 13:41 |

Hungarian Baja RESULTS: Final Overall Results Hungarian Baja 2014 BIKES | 18.08.2014 13:13 |

Hungarian Baja RESULTS: Final Overall Results Hungarian Baja 2014 CARS | 18.08.2014 13:00 |

Hungarian Baja: X-raid driver Vladimir Vasilyev consolidates World Cup lead. | 18.08.2014 12:42 |

Hungarian Baja: Fortin - "A terrific result for Al Attiyah and Overdrive Racing". | 18.08.2014 12:24 |

Hungarian Baja: Nasser Al Attiyah overall winner after dramatic fight Saturday. | 18.08.2014 12:00 |

Hungarian Baja PHOTOS: Impressions Friday by Pawel Roslon and Teams (39). | 16.08.2014 17:22 |

Hungarian Baja VIDEO: Impressions and Interview Toyota´s Nasser Al Attiyah | 16.08.2014 16:54 |

Hungarian Baja: Mini´s Terranova leading in front of Al Attiyah and Holowczyc. | 16.08.2014 16:22 |

Hungarian Baja: Ruoso, Zanotti and Maré Hungary first winners in the bikes. | 16.08.2014 16:00 |

Dakar Rally 2015: Great Wall to copy Local Motors Rally Fighter for the Dakar?. | 14.08.2014 21:30 |

Rally dos Sertões: More than 100 car and truck competitors in Brazilian rally. | 14.08.2014 19:40 |

Hungarian Baja VIDEO: Nice impressions of Hungarian Baja 2013 by Rallyheart | 14.08.2014 18:39 |

Hungarian Baja: Lónyai with HRX-Ford after burnt BMW, Fazekas teamed up. | 14.08.2014 17:18 |

SPECIAL: Schwarz and AGM-Jimco X6 SCORE Trophy Truck at Deutschland Rally | 14.08.2014 16:46 |

TORC LB 2014: Stingle wins Round 8 - and wins Limited Buggy Challenge | 14.08.2014 16:27 |

TORC STC 2014: Marquardt continues Podium Streak at RD8 Summer Crandon | 14.08.2014 15:39 |

TORC STC 2014: Super Stock Truck Championship will be decided at Big House | 14.08.2014 15:29 |


















Copyright 2003 - 2014 | All rights reserved by marathonrally.com international
London | Hamburg | Saint Petersburg | Kuala Lumpur | Monte-Carlo
Major office: marathonrally.com international | Joern Schekahn
Address: Gluckstr 74 A | 22081 Hamburg | Germany
Phone: +49 152 53 54 19 38