The King of the Hammers is, in a word, Unique (with a capital U). There are very few if any off-road races that require the use of a winch (even before getting stuck), the mutual cooperation of your competitors to help each other get around the course, or a finishing rate of just 11 percent. After seven editions it's earned a dubious reputation as being the most brutal desert events in the world.
Side-by-side UTVs have been a part of the program for five years, and in 2013 would face the most hideous King of the Hammers race ever. Trailmaster Dave Cole put together a 115-mile course through the Johnson Valley OHV Area in Southern California's Mojave Desert that would make the Marquis de Sade flinch.
It would require a ton of tenacity on the part of the drivers and maximum capability and durability on the part of the cars. All-around tire and wheel performance and reliability would be critical to success.
Having all of the above were two Polaris RZRs backed by Auburn Extreme Powersports. Claiming victory and a $1000 payout in the Production 1000 class was Ken Hower and co-driver Scott McCollough, who put their faith in STI Black Diamond XTR tires and STI HD Beadlock wheels. Grabbing third in class was Dave Eulberg, ably assisted by Wyatt Casper. This entry chose STI's brand new 30-inch Roctane XD rubber, also mounted on STI HD Beadlock wheels. Despite the uber-challenging terrain, neither of these teams suffered any tire or wheel issues whatsoever.
According to class winner and the fourth overall UTV driver Ken Hower, "Having seen the success Dave had with his STI Black Diamond tires last year, I knew for the 2013 race there was only one tire that I wanted to run on my car. I knew the Black Diamond tires would dominate in the sand out in the desert, but I was unfamiliar with their rock crawling capability. So last summer I took my RZR several times on the world famous Rubicon Trail to see how the Black Diamonds behaved on rocks. I was completely sold on their durability and grip, and knew I had made the right choice. Once the race started, the tires hooked up as expected in the desert. We set a pace intended to survive and get us to the rocks, where I knew my skillset and the STI HD Beadlocks and Black Diamonds would excel. Our results exceeded our expectations for a first-year entry, but it has given us the drive to go for the overall title next year. STI tires will be our only option for the 2014 King Of The Hammers UTV race."
Third place Dave Eulberg reported: "This is Auburn Extreme Powersports' second year running King of the Hammers and second year with an STI sponsorship. We thought we knew after last year what to expect, so we stepped up our game with a new big-bore motor, new Turner axles, and the latest and greatest from STI - 30x14 Roctane tires and 14-inch HD Beadlock wheels. We drew a terrible starting position, putting us at 31 out of 35. And being started behind the slower Every Man Challenge (EMC) class by an hour made the race almost impossible.
"After pre-running most of the course and determining what insanity would be expected of us, we teamed up with other drivers along the way to help make it through as far as possible. After a blistering pace through the desert we got too far ahead of the other drivers and were forced to wait, knowing that the rocks were next and would be the most challenging for the car. After easily driving up Aftershock and Hwy 20/19 heading into Pit #2 without winching or even a flat tire, we knew we were in a good position to be in first or second in our class.
"After flying down Jackhammer, then into the gnarly Chocolate Thunder rock climb, we began running into the EMC cluster, ultimately costing us the time needed to finish the rest of the course. Trying to help out another racer cost us our second-place finish. We never winched, never broke and never even had a flat tire. We just flat ran out of time. We did end up third according to the IRC tracker position but next year our goal is to go for the overall title! STI will be our only option for the 2014 King of the Hammers UTV Race."
Photos courtesy of Auburn Extreme Powersports, UTVUnderground.com, and Bower Motorsports Media.