When you think of off roading, the classic seven slots tend to be the first thing people think of, as Jeep’s iconic grille represents a heritage of the love for the outdoors and being off the pavement. Over the last few decades, the love for off roading has grown from a hobby to a sport, with off roading competitions popping up across the US.
One of the most popular today is the King Of the Hammers, in Johnson Valley, CA.
REVKIT had the opportunity to experience this incredible event alongside Group 504.
We started the journey from Savannah, GA crossing the US to California over the course of four days. As we pulled into Johnson Valley on Saturday there were already thousands of people in Hammertown, a temporary city built specifically for this event.
King Of the Hammers is a nine day event with multiple races and classes within each race. Each race includes a desert high speed section and slower rock section across 2-3 laps.
To be crowned King, the winner must cross the finish line the quickest (not necessarily first once corrected time is applied). To even finish the race is considered a huge accomplishment, and that shows just how difficult this race is.
What makes this event so unique is the ability for everyone to drive their vehicles around Johnson Valley freely, even crossing the race course when it was cleared.
This means spectators had the opportunity to take their rigs to some of the very same obstacles that the racers would be on later in the week.
We decided to find a few places for pictures and attempt to wheel a canyon that Jeff Yurk from Group 504 climbed with ease. We were not as successful with a broken spider gear in the JL, but had a blast nonetheless!
The first race we watched was the 4WP Every Man Challenge on Wednesday. This race includes Stock (4600 class), Modified (4500 class) and Legend (4800 class) cars all racing at the same time.
This was a very interesting race to watch, as there are several different chassis, engines, and shock combinations across the board. This also gives the chance for less modified classes to see where they can improve or to see if they can keep up with a more modified class.
One of the most incredible things to witness in this event was the Savvy race team race a preproduction model Jeep Gladiator truck and even finish the race with the help of Erik Miller and Robby Gordon.
The winner of the 4WP Every Man Challenge was 4800 class driver, Casey Gilbert with a time of 5:08:03.
Thursday kicked off the Toyo Desert Invitational Presented by Monster Energy. This race was especially interesting as it was the first time that King Of The Hammers has included a trophy truck class (removing the King Of The Motos race).
This brought huge names like BJ Baldwin, Robby Gordon, Apdaly Lopez, Bryce Menzies and even Jesse James (yes THAT Jesse James) to the playing field for what BJ Baldwin and Jesse James called “One of the most unique courses they had ever raced”.
Of the 29 starters, only 8 finished.
I believe this will be a much bigger race with more finishers next year.
The winner of the Toyo Desert Invitational presented by Monster Energy was Luke McMillan with a time of 04.04:31.369.
Friday was the day everyone was waiting for. The main event, the 2019 Nitto King Of The Hammers presented by Optima Batteries, was kicking off.
At 6 am, over a hundred 4400 class race cars lined up and prepared for the launch of the most grueling race in the world. By 8 am, the green flag dropped and out screamed the drivers, two at a time.
Bob Corcoran of Group 504 and I headed to several obstacles where we could see the drivers battle out the hammers first hand. These included Back Door, Resolution and Chocolate Thunder.
These were a definite test of the driver and even co driver’s limits.
6 hours, 32 minutes and 39 seconds after launching off the starting line, Jason Scherer crosses the finish line and claimed his 3rd win at the Hammers. He was followed shortly after by Erik Miller and Shannon Campbell. All three of these men have conquered the Hammers as winners and their experience showed throughout the race.
We believe this is an event that any off road enthusiast needs to experience at least one in their lifetime. From watching Hammer Town grow, to the carnage of failed race cars, there seemed to be the constant feeling of a community driven by the love of being off the pavement and in the wild.