Car racing has been one of the most dangerous sports in history. Because of the risks involved, the gruelling levels that both car and driver are put through, the excitement it causes to go viral and of course the profits it generates, it is also one of the most popular, enticing and constantly upgraded on all parameters. With the turn of the twentieth century, when roads were yet to take on a form, car enthusiasts would engage in countless attempts to propel through the roughest of terrains at high speeds sitting at considerable heights on cars raised with wagon wheels. The unreliability of the vehicles required teams of a driver and a mechanic who would be capable of fixing issues on the vehicle while it was still moving. Needless to say, many lost their lives.
Even today hundreds of off-road races and events take place where drivers and riders cover hundreds of miles, of completely unkempt terrain in days and sometimes weeks. With advancements in Medical facilities, Event organizational procedures and upgraded aids and equipment, One can hope that there shall be no more fatalities, and keep in mind the nature of the sport and those participating in it, we all understand how dangerous motorsports can be.
Rock Crawling and Desert racing are two completely different disciplines in off-road race driving. As is seconded by the type of cars put into them. Desert racing requires fast machines with massive power production capabilities and a good wheel base and wheel track ratio for driving confidence and vehicle stability at high speeds. Rock crawling buggies on the other hand are low-geared, sport a multi-stick transfer case, and because of the need for sure footedness, a short wheel base.
Racing has always been in our blood. It’s a part of the human DNA. Be it horses, chariots or motorcycles and cars, racing has always made its way – through us. And no matter where and by how much we limit ourselves, to certain degrees and demeanours, there are some of us who always find the next level, or in the case of Hammerking productions, create one – several leaps beyond immediate perception.
Dubbed the “Toughest one day off road race in the world”, the King of the Hammers debuted in the year 2008 on public lands in Johnson Valley, California. With its arrival, it was immediately welcomed by the off-roading community and is now a major must-attend on their year planners. The race, now a part of the week long off-road festival that takes place in the valley, has evolved from twelve teams racing for popularity and adding another badge on their dashboards, to more than 300 teams putting up against each other with 35000+ spectators and 500000 online viewers. Its incredible success has led the founder of the race to create another “Ultra 4 Racing series” with seven races held all over the nation, each being a qualifier for KOH every year.
A special class of vehicles, each custom fabricated by their respective team, race at speeds of over 100 miles per hour in the desert sections and are also equipped with gear ratios of 100:1 or even lower for technical rock crawling. Called the “Ultra 4”, these vehicles compose of the unlimited class.
At thirty-second intervals, two vehicles start off side by side and are required to complete a 165-mile course in less than 14 hours. All teams must cross seven checkpoints, all the while staying within one hundred feet of the centerline of the course. Repairs are only allowed either on track by the drivers or in the pits owing to the fact the King of the Hammers is a race without chase teams.
A final qualifier takes place before the race on a two-mile course, where 30-50 teams compete to qualify for the big race. Equipment failure, crashes, and neck-breaking competition come standard with the race. The race course was initially roughly 90 miles in length and included all the kinds of terrain on could hope to see in the Mojave Desert.
The lighter the rig, the easier it can climb the rocky ledges and the faster it can run in the desert sections. It is vital to keep the centre of gravity lower in the vehicle and use lighter materials where bulk can be reduced. With a race of this sort, failures come uninvited and require the racers to carry spare supplies of steering pumps, drive-shafts, axels and suspension parts, since the suspension and steering unit face the maximum challenge.
For anyone crazy enough to put their blood and sweat into a race rig that would be worth the King of Hammers, and then be brave enough to put it through the wrecking capabilities of the course, there is a straight and easy option of entering the race “through the back door”, where the Last Chance Qualifier has recently been opened to anyone who registers, shows up and passes the technical inspection. Once you’re through, you’re in for the drive of your life.