Every racing series has its biggest event: Indy 500, Daytona 500, U.S. Nationals and LeMans each serve as a key event for racers and fans of each sanctioning body. For offroad racers, the ultimate accomplishment is a podium finish at the King of the Hammers (KOH), the world’s toughest one-day race. Held in Johnson Valley California each winter in an area affectionately dubbed “Hammertown”, over 100,000 spectators gather to watch a series of rock races throughout the one week event, culminating in the final KOH event on Friday in which racers must complete the 165-mile long course in under 14 hours. That may not seem like much of a challenge to some, but considering a significant part of the course passes through a mountainous section fraught with craters and boulders taller than the Ultra-4 vehicles that run the event, finishing at all can be a victory in itself. In a race where participants run in excess of 100 MPH across dry lakes then slow to a pace better measured in hours per mile on rocky trails, rollovers and equipment failure are common, testing the will and resolve of racer and crew alike. 2016 KOH 2nd Place finisher Jason Scherer knows this. After his strong finish, he said, “The night before, I told my team at the team meeting, “I’ll never give up on you guys!”, so they never had time to think because they were always trying to get to the next pit in front of me. My team was amazing, I really couldn’t have been as successful without all of them.”
With good equipment, a good team and a favorable day, it was an exhilarating experience for Rob McCachren as well. “What a day! I’ve been racing 30-plus years. Participating & finishing today’s King of the Hammers is one of the top most exciting things I’ve done. Words don’t describe it enough!” Perhaps the most memorable finish was provided by the Campbell family (siblings Bailey and Wayland and their father, Shannon). Shannon, a 2-time KOH winner, preceded his 19-year-old daughter, Bailey across the finish line by a scant 19 minutes. Bailey’s 5th place finish makes her the first woman to have earned a podium finish in the King of the Hammers. Bailey’s older brother, Wayland came in 15th, a remarkable finish considering his progress was halted by a broken driveshaft on the final leg of the event. Since crews may not repair Ultra-4 rigs between pit areas, Wayland was on his own. With his immobile vehicle partially blocking a rocky trail, he took time to help competitors navigate around his car, pulling winches and spotting. A fellow driver repaid the gentleman racer’s kindness with the donation of a spare driveshaft, which Wayland promptly installed and headed for the finish.
The outcome of every race is largely contingent upon the culmination of a variety of factors. The winningest teams are always as prepared as possible, checking everything with the vehicle, tools and equipment then checking it all again. Eliminating problems before they emerge is a priority and one of the ways Jason Scherer, the Campbells and Rob McCrachren do this is by partnering with manufacturers dedicated to supplying products strong enough to survive King of the Hammers competition. All three teams have enjoyed a good relationship with tire, shock and gear manufacturers like Motive Gear. “Rock racing is an excellent test bed for the development of new and better products. We learn what works and what doesn’t in live time.” says Motive Gear employee and desert racing enthusiast Eric Filar. Motive Gear has been very involved in offroad racing for decades, and employees like Eric demonstrate their support beyond supplying quality parts through personal effort. “We’ve worked in the pits with crews, brought parts, tools, whatever they need.”
In the event a failure occurs, having support that close helps avoid a repeat of the problem at a future event. Broken gears or shafts are sent to Motive Gear’s Quality Control lab in Chicago where a complete stress and metallurgical analysis is done to identify any weak areas that may be present. Engineers then find ways to strengthen the component, and those processes then find their way into other products in Motive Gear’s extensive line of products. Ten Factory axle shafts are an excellent example. To avoid breaking, engineers specify 4340 or 4140 chrome moly steel capable of twisting 190 degrees and springing back without breaking – over 40% more than comparable stock axle shafts. In case someone does manage to break one, Ten Factory axle shafts are covered by a no questions asked 10 year warranty. Motive Gear is serious about their reputation, racers’ success and customers’ satisfaction with their products!