VNR Alert: Widely considered the toughest one day off-road races in the world, King of the Hammers is seeing massive early crowds and punishing racing
1 feb 2022
January 31, 2022 (Hammertown, CA) - The gates opened this weekend on the annual Progressive King of the Hammers Powered by OPTIMA Batteries. What started as a bet amongst a dozen friends in 2007 is now one of the biggest off-road events in the world. For those who can’t make the pilgrimage to Hammertown, the global fan community follows the live coverage online and participates in live chats all week long.
Hammertown is the makeshift city built to support the races and fans - complete with street names, over 150 vendors, race pits, Jumbotrons for live viewing from the course, and live music at night. King of the Hammers (KOH) has become a destination for gearheads from around the globe, with many spectators bringing their own UTVs (SSV), off-road trucks and rock-crawling buggies to Johnson Valley to actively recreate between races.
Tens of thousands of fans and over 500 teams have already begun gathering on Means Dry Lake in the Southern California desert for eight days of intense racing and festivities on and around the punishing rock trails known as “The Hammers.” The names are unforgettable including Sledgehammer, Wrecking Ball, Full of Hate and Hell To Pay. But even more unforgettable are the struggles and triumphs these teams experience in the attempt to tackle the infamous trails and reach the finish line.
Freezing temperatures, thick and low-hanging fog, and a heavy haze of dust hovered over the course as the sun rose to reveal Hammertown in all its frantic glory on Saturday’s first race of the week. The kick off featured multiple classes of limited and unlimited desert race trucks. Both races saw legends in the sport of off-road racing fiercely challenged by the course - with some victorious, some beaten and new winners crowned. On the second day of racing featuring unlimited trucks, nearly half the field did not finish.
Offering eight days of competition, the early beginnings of King of the Hammers was just one race for unlimited vehicles. Racers can build what they think will take the crown. Now, the races include off-road’s biggest names in desert trucks, UTVs (SSV), stock vehicles and of course, the unlimited Ultra4 cars (4400) that are capable of climbing dozens of extreme rock faces yet tackle the speed of open desert. There are also electric vehicle entries and a grassroots EV racing program announcement and forum taking place on Wednesday.
As the week progresses, crowds will continue to build for the final three races and the unlimited race that started it all - the Nitto Race of Kings. One-hundred unlimited four-wheel drive vehicles will tackle extreme rocky terrain in what most cannot believe can be driven. Different from many motorpsorts, the vehicles are custom-built by the drivers and co-drivers themselves, who are just as talented as fabricators, engineers, and welders as they are as drivers. The punishing terrain and the unlimited racing has pushed exceptional innovation and ingenuity throughout the sport and automotive aftermarket space.
“I’ve never driven that hard for a solid half-hour. It was intense.” Bryce Menzies, 2020 & 2021 Overall Winner Toyo Desert Challenge, Baja 1000 champion and former Dakar competitor.
“King of the Hammers' such a legendary event. My grandpa started this in the family and I'm proud that my dad and uncles are all legends in this ward as well. It feels really good to be able to carry on the family passion. The King of the Hammers event is so gnarly that it almost feels impossible at some points, but once once you're up here, it feels amazing.” - Ezra Ebberts, 3rd place overall Toyo Desert Challenge Limited Buggies Race
“I never envisioned this magnitude when we started, but King of the Hammers is what people are looking for. When we started, it was tough, hard-working people welding in their garages with their friends. Today we have big name racers and teams from around the world, but we still have the person who dreams and believes they can do it. It’s not exclusive, it’s inclusive. King of the Hammers is about determination and never giving up. That’s why they come here.” - Dave Cole, King of the Hammers founder and Ultra4 Racing Director.