It was an experience of a lifetime to get the opportunity to compete in The 2009 King Of The Hammers - "The Ultimate Desert Race". Considered by many to be the toughest single-day off-road race in the world, I now have a true appreciation for just why that is. Take 10 of the toughest rock trails anywhere in the world and link them together with 100 miles of the roughest desert terrain possible and you have the 2009 KOH race course. Set in the heart of the unforgiving Mojave desert at the Johnson Valley, California OHV area; the home of the infamous "Hammers" trails. Trails with names like "Jackhammer", and "Sledgehammer" are known worldwide for their extreme level of difficulty.
This race, in just it's second official running has grown to an amazing level of popularity among race teams and fans. A unique race format blends high speed Baja style desert racing with extreme rock racing and creates a formula for an incredible challenge and adventure. This race is truly a test of endurance and survival as the day began with 92 of the top race teams in the sport leaving the starting line and by the end of the day, only 36 of those same teams actualy made it back to cross the finish line. The 61% attrition rate speaks to just how tough a test this race is for both man and machine.
Our story really began upon receiving a highly coveted invitation to this race. Once the excitement diminished, a strong sense of reality set in. I thought "how am I actually going to pull this off?" The amount of planning, preparation, and logistics required in order to put together a competitive program to run in this event is staggering. This isn't just a "show and go" type of race, given every team has to be completely self-sufficient with multi-location pit support for fuel, parts, and everything necessary to complete the 100 miles of brutal desert racing. It quickly became clear the level of commitment of time, money, energy, and pure effort necessary would easily surpass what it typically takes to run an entire year of regular series racing.
The race vehicle rebuild project begain 3 months before race day. My rig, although one of the top race vehicles in the sport of Extreme Rock Racing, was not designed for this kind of racing. Extensive changes to the suspension were necessary in order to take on the high speed desert sections for long distances. The fuel system needed to be expanded and completely reworked. Also, given the biggest threat to an race engine in the desert is overheating, the cooling system received significant attention for upgrades. The distance and remote sections meant adding a specialized GPS system and a long range radio for communications with race control, pit support, and emergency services. The list of changes and upgrades to the race vehicle included:
. New Atlas 5.0 Transfer Case
. New (much larger) Griffin Racing radiator with dual fans, installed above the engine with a unique roof mounted air induction plenum
. Dedicated high capacity coolers w/fans for engine oil, transmission fluid, and hydraulic steering fluid
. Fuel cooling system
. Complete suspension redesign/rebuild with new FOA 2.5" Coilover shocks
. New cool air intake system and exhaust
. Front and Rear differentials rebuilt/regeared with new spools
. All wearable chassis parts replaced (ball joints, rod ends, u-joints, etc.)
. New front axle housing truss/skid protection
. New spare tire mounting system with integrated jack
. New "piggyback" fuel cell system to increase fuel capacity
. New high-flow fuel pump
. New electronics package (Desert racing GPS system, long-range racing radio communications system)
. Miscellaneous additional desert racing safety items (tools, dust light, horn, first aid and survival kit)
more updates to come!