The King Of The Hammers is more than a race, its become one of the most iconic events in off-road. The week long event is held in Johnson Valley, CA, and has turned into what some call the Burning Man of off-road. Fanatics, racers, sponsors and enthusiasts from all over the nation and world flock to the high desert of southern california for a week of riding, racing and spectating. For us it has and always will be one of our favorite events to attend and cover.
Ultra 4 Racing which organizes and sanctions the King Of The Hammers (KOH) has done a fantastic job of taking what once was a small and slightly unorganized event and turned it into one of the finest productions in our sport which consists of a multiple races taking place throughout the week. While most are there for the big Ultra 4 race which takes place on the final day of the event, us along with many others arrive much earlier in the week to partake in the UTV race. The UTV race has long been a side show to the overall spectacle of King of The Hammers, but as of late this side show has turned into one of the biggest draws of the week long party.
This year 60 UTVs would register to compete in the Polaris RZR King Of The Hammers UTV race. The class format is open, one class, one trophy. A starting position draw is held prior to the start of the event determining where the UTVs will line up. Racers dart off the line in pairs, every thirty seconds. The race is roughly 100 miles long +/- and consists of a mixture of desert, sand and rocks. The rocks however are the draw and what makes the KOH race one of the most challenging and exciting races on the planet.
6-time UTV KOH winner Mitch Guthrie would be the second vehicle off the line. Many, including us felt that if Mitch could run free of mechanicals that he would handily win his 7th title. But nothing is given at KOH. Mitch would have a clean run for nearly 80 miles, battling up front and leading much of the race before a heim joint on his front suspension would fail forcing him to watch his hopes of a 7th crown run away from him. Guthrie would finish 4th physically and come out in 5th on corrected time. Still a fantastic finish for one of the best racers this event has ever seen.
Blake Van De Loo is known as one of the best, and most winningest co-driver / navigators in UTV off-road racing. He has helped his team at Jagged X racing amass and unprecedented 8 desert racing UTV championships as well as one King Of The Hammers UTV race win. But Blake has had his share of challenges as a driver at King Of The Hammers. Van De Loo always arrives as one of the class favorites. His course preparation, driving skills and vehicle are always one of the best in class. Blake never approaches this race or any he is part of half way, he is always all-in and this year would see all of his hard work and dedication pay off. Blake started the race in the 7th position but within a few miles of the start was already moving towards the front where he would then run down Guthrie and begin one of the most epic back and forth race battles this race has ever seen. Blake and Mitch would battle nose to tail and side-by-side for much of the race, culminating in an epic pass on one of the courses most iconic trails, Chocolate Thunder. While Guthrie was winching his way up the massive rock trail, Van De Loo would enter and be forced to take the hardest line on the trail to overtake Guthrie. With the crowd in a frenzy, Blake gassed and passed his opponent in spectacular fashion to overtake the lead.
Guthrie did not give up, he would overtake Mitch again just prior to breaking. From there Van De Loo never looked back. He would cross the finish line first and win his first King of The Hammers race as a driver by just over 30 minutes. We couldn’t have been more happy to see such a fantastic person and racer earn this victory. Blake is as selfless as they come, always one of the first to lend a helping hand and always the first to congratulate his fellow competitors.
Branden Sims is no stranger to the King Of The Hammers. Sims has found the podium before and has been working feverishly for years to capture his first KOH win. Sims would start this years race 37th off the line, it would be no easy task to get to the front. Luckily for Sims there would be about 70 miles of desert to run before hitting any of the really hard rock sections, the desert is where he shines. Sims would blast his way to the lead pack and would soon find himself chasing down the leaders. Sims would fall short of a win, but would earn himself a second place victory.
Chad Hughes is rather unknown for us. While we may not know a lot of about Hughes, we know now that he is no one to ignore moving forward. He would start the race in the 35th position and like a master would work his Polaris RZR through the pack and strait to a third place podium position!
This years race felt special to us. Seeing all of the heavy hitters we have grown familiar with in this race through the years and topped off with names like Robby Gordon & Rob MacCachren, it made this years UTV KOH race feel bigger than ever. And it was bigger than ever. 60 UTVs is a remarkable turnout for any race, let alone one of the most difficult in the world. Polaris was well represented not only as title sponsor but with a fleet of competitors behind the wheel of RZRs. Arctic Cat turned out their largest field and produced a top 5 finish with longtime rock racer Dean Bulloch. Robby Gordon, Sheldon Creed & Todd Romano are names we are used to hearing when talking about the elite truck racing classes of off-road and here they were running in their Arctic Cat Wildcat’s showcasing Robby Gordon’s new line up of Speed products. Yamaha had multiple entries including Jason Weller who would finish 7th in his new Yamaha YXZ1000R. Finishing top 10 in this new machine proved to many that the new Yamaha is here to play on all fronts. We were thrilled to see just how well that machine crawled while equipped with a Rekluse clutch and Tube-Works gear reduction kit. It was an exciting race on all fronts, more stories then we could ever wish to tell, and we can’t wait to see how much further the sport and class is pushed in 2017.
Thank you to all of the UTV racers who took on this years King Of The Hammers. We want to thank Ultra 4 Racing for a fun and exciting event and of course we want to thank all of the racers, fans and teams who represented UTVUnderground.com all around Hammer Town and the race course!! Last but not least, huge thank you to PCI Race Radios for their support and giving us the resources to cover this years event!
See you all next year…
Blake Van de Loo Takes the Crown at the 2016 Polaris RZR UTV King of the Hammers
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.
–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 don’t know where to go.”
–Mitch Guthrie on finishing the race after a mechanical. “I said we’re done and Junior (Mitch’s 19 year old son, who has been his co-driver for six years) said, ‘nope we’re not done, we are going to finish this’. And then I said, ‘all right here we go’. I honestly don’t 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 he’s 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 can’t 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 MacCachren’s 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 finisher Branden Sim’s second podium at KOH—he 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. I’m 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 didn’t finish.
–Competing in his first KOH was Dakar winner Marcus Patronelli who also DNF’d– 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 didn’t finish, but gave a respectable effort in her Kawasaki Teryx.
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
2 BRANDEN SIMS 1913 8:08:30 9:56:06 13:03:49 4:55:19
3 CHAD HUGHES 1295 8:08:00 10:08:03 13:13:52 5:05:52
4 DEAN BULLOCH 1909 8:03:00 10:01:53 13:14:44 5:11:44
5 MITCH GUTHRIE 1 8:00:00 9:42:18 13:14:19 5:14:19
6 ROB MACCACHREN 4900 8:10:30 10:03:43 13:32:03 5:21:33
7 JASON WELLER 1910 8:11:00 10:03:55 13:41:50 5:30:50
8 EVAN ENGELHARDT 1991 8:02:30 9:58:43 13:39:25 5:36:55
9 ERIK MILLER 4421 8:07:00 9:56:58 13:44:21 5:37:21
10 RICHARD (BUZZ) BRONSEMA 4917 8:11:00 10:19:51 13:54:18 5:43:18
11 ROSS PILGREEN 111 8:05:00 10:47:48 14:31:54 6:26:54
12 BRIAN KING 669 8:05:30 9:53:36 14:34:49 6:29:19
13 TYLER GREVES 4919 8:08:00 10:18:38 14:42:36 6:34:36
14 AUSTIN MASSINGILL 1738 8:07:00 10:16:07 15:08:54 7:01:54
15 ANTHONY YOUNT 2506 8:04:30 10:49:35 15:27:14 7:22:44
16 Brent Zimmerman 31 8:14:30 10:40:11 15:37:15 7:22:45
17 WESLEY GRYNER 7 8:04:00 10:17:16 15:41:58 7:37:58
18 Sheldon Creed 4974 8:14:00 10:19:10 13:41:51 7:42:51 7:42:51 135 Minute Penalty
19 JESSE JOHNSON 1947 8:08:30 10:17:21 15:55:42 7:47:12
20 BRIAN FISHER 970 8:05:30 10:07:37 16:00:10 7:54:40
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
23 JOHN DUCKWORTH 1920 8:07:30 9:56:20 DNF DNF
24 BURT JENNER 1950 8:01:30 9:58:45 DNF DNF
25 ANDREW WALKER 4991 8:01:00 10:00:57 DNF DNF
26 SARA PRICE 123 8:04:30 10:04:21 DNF DNF
27 ETHAN OSBORNE 1921 8:00:30 10:08:09 DNF DNF
28 DUSTIN NELSON 94 8:06:30 10:08:17 DNF DNF
29 WHIMPY LAWSON 8008 8:03:00 10:08:42 DNF DNF
30 DJ SILVA 1949 8:02:30 10:10:43 DNF DNF
31 ROB CAMILLERI 511 8:00:30 10:15:32 DNF DNF
32 CRAIG SANISLO 1967 8:12:00 10:17:47 DNF DNF
33 JAMI PELLEGRINO 485 8:09:00 10:20:37 DNF DNF
34 Marcus Patronelli 4921 8:14:00 10:22:21 DNF DNF
35 ROSANNA DUPRAU 808 8:06:30 10:31:24 DNF DNF
36 SVEN ELLSTROM 16 8:13:30 10:31:53 DNF DNF
37 PHIL CAGLIERO 21 8:12:00 10:37:14 DNF DNF
38 MATT GREGG 1982 8:11:30 10:37:38 DNF DNF
39 JOHN CIANCI 1980 8:11:30 10:37:44 DNF DNF
40 DARELD LUSHER 1807 8:10:00 10:38:00 DNF DNF
41 RICK MARKLEY 777 8:02:00 10:38:36 DNF DNF
42 ERIC YATES 86 8:12:30 10:38:55 DNF DNF
43 HEATH FRAZIER 66 8:00:00 10:42:58 DNF DNF
44 Bill Barnett 1948 8:13:30 11:06:40 DNF DNF
45 Ronald Schaefer 4911 8:14:30 11:48:02 DNF DNF
46 JOEY BECK 1917 8:04:00 11:50:41 DNF DNF
47 AARON CLARK 1002 8:10:30 12:11:07 DNF DNF
48 JUSTIN BARTH 2700 8:09:00 12:20:26 DNF DNF
49 MEL WADE IV 1951 8:07:30 12:32:39 DNF DNF
50 CJ BYNUM 1313 8:12:30 12:42:49 DNF DNF
51 TYSON SMITH 4944 8:13:00 12:49:11 DNF DNF
52 LUKE HORSCHEL 99 8:10:00 DNF DNF DNF
53 BRAD WITBECK 981 8:03:30 DNF DNF DNF
54 GEORGE LISENBERY 1111 8:13:00 DNF DNF DNF
55 ANTONIO COSTA 1904 8:06:00 DNF DNF DNF
56 RYAN BERGAMINI 1933 8:01:00 DNF DNF DNF
57 MIKE STUMPH 1935 8:05:00 DNF DNF DNF
58 CHRIS BARNETT 1961 8:09:30 DNF DNF DNF
59 AMIN PATEL 1986 8:03:30 DNF DNF DNF
60 BRETT SNYDER 7212 8:06:00 DNF DNF DNF