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"Off Road", June 1, 2012

2012 KING OF THE HAMMERS

YEAR OF THE EVERYMAN

BY KEVIN BLUMER

PHOTOGRAPHY: JERROD JONES, CHRIS GREEN, AND COURTESY OF UTVUNDERGROUND.COM

IT’S FUN TO WATCH THE BIG DOGS RUN, BUT IF YOU CAN’T RUN WITH THEM, IS THE ALTERNATIVE ALWAYS TO STAY UNDER THE PORCH?

In past iterations of King of the Hammers, the answer was yes. If you weren’t a big dog, you weren’t going to run with the premier Unlimited Class. You weren’t even going to pass the qualifiers to get your chance to run with Unlimited racers.

That was then. For the 2012 round, Smittybilt teamed with Hammerking Productions to create the Smittybilt Everyman Challenge. The course was a 77-mile torture fest that contained many of the same trails that the Unlimited rigs would run later in the week. “Torture fest” means miles of wide open desert terrain interspersed with trips up and down some of the gnarliest rockcrawling trails this side of anywhere: the Hammers.

The Everyman Challenge is so named because it was a race for everyman vehicles, namely the Stock and Modified Full-Body classes of Ultra 4 Racing. Stock-Class vehicles are strikingly similar to what you’ll see on a trail near you: 35-inch tires, stock body, stock frame, stock engine, and no more than a single 2.5-inch-diameter shock per wheel. Bypass shocks are not permitted in the Stock Class. The Modified Class opens things up a little more, allowing up to 37-inch tires, certain body modifications, and up to two 2.5-inch-diameter shocks per wheel (bypass shocks permitted).

Perhaps most importantly, the Everyman Challenge didn’t require qualifying for competitors to earn a place on the starting line. If you could build a vehicle that complied with the rules, you could line up to race. This stands in stark contrast to King of the Hammers’ Unlimited Class, where qualifying is both grueling and mandatory.

With one stroke of its rule-making pen, Ultra 4 Racing (sanctioning body for King of the Hammers) created an opportunity for racers to compete in classes where the playing field sits much more level and where driving skills are the primary determinant of who finishes first.

What do we think? We love the concept! Off-roaders by nature are participants, not spectators. Anytime more people can become directly involved, the more fun it is for everyone.

When the checkered flag flew at the 2012 Smittybilt Everyman Challenge, it flew for the Stock-Class Jeep Wrangler driven by John Currie and co-driven by Gerald Lee. Currie and Lee beat the second-place rig by more than 15 minutes: a huge margin in racing terms. Since the Stock and Modified classes raced together, it means that all the Modified entries and the balance of the Stock racing field could only watch as Currie and Lee disappeared over the horizon. Congratulations, gentlemen.

King of the Hammers has grown every year since its inception. Different years bring different themes and different winners to mind. The year 2012 will forever be the Year of the Everyman.

THE SOURCE

ULTRA 4 RACING

Ultra4racing.com

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