We’re About to Make the Toughest One-Day Race a Little Easier…
- Do you REALLY know what type of race you have entered?
- Quick Summary
- Overall Event
- Race Day
- Logistics – This Article
- Getting There
- Staying There
- Maintaining Sanity
- The Race – Next Article
- How to Survive
- How to be Recovered
- Packing List Tips – Next Article
Do you REALLY know what type of race you have entered?
If you’re already registered with USAC and Ultra4 for the 2021 King of the Hammers, congratulations. This is a lifechanging experience that very, very few individuals will ever experience. If you’re a first timer to the sport, this event is going to be akin to being woken up at 2 AM with a splash of arctic ice water. The King of the Hammers is much more than a tough course- its mentally exhausting, mechanically merciless, and endlessly hungry for all of your pre-planned logistical resources. Expect your most strategic game plan to burn quickly out on the lakebed- adaptiveness, ingenuity, and flexibility are the key characteristics for this event. We’ll do our best in this article so that you can show up on January 28th with your best foot forward. Nonetheless, don’t expect to bring back a functioning vehicle and anticipate a tidal wave of post-race fatigue.
Let’s Talk About Reality For a Minute
Depending on the series you run and the style of riding that you do, this sport can be painfully exhausting on financial resources. Our team couldn’t do the things that we do, and plan for monumental growth, without the support of our primary sponsors. Sedona Tire and Wheel, Warn Winch, and PRP have stuck with us since the beginning. We are beyond appreciative for the help that they provide and thoroughly believe in the quality of their products. We plan on finishing this monster of a race, with the intent of one-day scoring a podium KOH finish, and couldn’t fathom embarking on such a journey without these brands’ products. If you want to be the best, start by running the best. Now let’s talk King of the Hammers.
A Quick Summary
The Overall Event
This event is so much more than just 3 days of racing: for one, it’s a monstrous vendor platform for any kind of outdoor/off-roading enthusiast. You’ll have the ability to walk through hundreds of vendor displays, each with the latest tech and insider industry information. If you’re considering entering the sport, prepare for TEST RIDES. Yes- Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha, and Can-Am were present at last years event and will likely be at the 2021 event with the newest lineups available for a joy ride. Ford will also be at this years event as well with the new Bronco. This alone should be enough motivation to get out to Johnson Valley, CA. If you need an RV, Forest River is going to be present with a variety of units available for immediate purchase. Expect plenty of live concerts, fresh food trucks, side shows such as the Pit Crew Challenge, Coronation/Holley EFI Showdown, and- of course- class qualifying on the short course.
If your a racer, expect plenty of confusion early on race day. Technically you lineup at 7 am but unless your a top 15 finisher in qualifying, this isn’t exactly pertinent to you. We lined up around 7:30, with the race starting somewhere around 8:10. Qualifying orders were finalized late on the previous day, making the starting order a tad confusing. Due to the huge field of racers, the race lineup zig-zags through the vendor rows of ‘Hammer Town’. Expect plenty of frantic individuals checking Yellow-Brick trackers and rearranging your assigned transponder. You need to be drinking plenty of water but be cognizant of bathroom breaks. Very few places discuss this but this topic is highly important to your 7+ hour race. Catheters, sold by many places including Rugged Radios (ironically enough), solve this uncomfortable issue. This is a quick intro to your race day- read on below as we dive into this behemoth of a subject.
LOGISTICS… (Getting There)
If your from southern CA, this isn’t nearly as relevant. For the rest of us that choose to happily reside in places outside of CA, we’d guess this is about half of the teams, your treacherous journey begins long before your scheduled race day. For one, you’re going to be traveling across multiple mountain passes with varying levels of snow and ice. Be prepared to have some type of mechanical setback like blown tires, trailer issues, needing chains, partially winterizing your RV for sub-freezing temperatures, etc. Check the weather frequently- if you decide to arrive at Johnson Valley, AKA the Lakebed, with a mere day ahead of qualifying check for snowstorms. If your desired route gets closed due to snow, your race is doomed before it begins.
PRO TIP- if you drive through New Mexico, expect all of the rest areas to be closed. Plan ahead- sleeping on the side of a highway, as we chose to do last year, is a surefire way to sleep deprive yourself.
PRO TIP- if you drive through Colorado, expect there to be practically no rest areas. Plan ahead- get the idea?
PRO TIP- if you drive through Utah, be sure to have good rest ahead of time. The wind is heavy and certainly not your asset as it always seem to blow perpendicular to the highway: add a towering fifth wheel to the equation for a real eventful drive.
LOGISTICS (Staying There)
So you brought your huge RV, your fully-loaded trailer, a group of friends and family for pit/event support, and a couple vehicles for course-sighting: now what? Here’s a quick low-down on important stuff you probably haven’t yet got answers to:
- Emptying Grey Water and Sewage– Your tanks will NOT be big enough to hold out. Luckily, there are multiple trucks dispatched to the lakebed that will empty your tanks for about 20 bucks. Please bring cash.
- Cellular Coverage. (WIFI is provided in ’21 so results may differ) We would like to think that asking people and checking for printed information would be ideal at this event. Nope! Everyone just seems to state ‘it should be on the site’ to practically all race questions. Having acceptable cellular coverage will work to your benefit out here.
- Verizon- Best
- ATNT- Acceptable in most places
- T-Mobile- Forget about it.
- Sprint- What’s that.
- Gas. Apparently 2021 will be the first year where you can buy pump gas (94 octane) onsite. This was not the case in previous years and resulted in us having to purchase multiple additional fuel containers. If you have to leave the lakebed for any reason, civilization is somewhere around 30 minutes out (without the continual slow drawl of traffic).
- Spare Parts. We can’t overstate this concept enough- seemingly everyone out at an Ultra4 event is there to help but at the end of the day, you secure your own destiny. Don’t expect to bum off of others spare parts: people are happy to help, within reason, but very few will sacrifice their own event for your inability to prepare. You can, and likely will, break the most unexpected components out there. We broke a major component last year in pre-running and almost lost our ability to start- this would have been crushing after nearly 6 months of unwavering preparation.
- Fresh Food. How long does protein last refrigerated? 4-6 days at best right. How long do you intend to stay at the race? Assuming you arrive on January 28, 2021 (Hammertown Opening) to February 6, 2021, your once fresh grocery pickings are anything but edible towards the end of the event. Our advice is to prepare a very strict schedule of what you intend to eat and when. This is especially important so that you know when to freeze and unfreeze your proteins. Your also welcome to eat at any of the delicious vendor shops, budget depending, of course. We’ll talk more on this subject in the next iteration of this prep guide (eating light ahead of your event is not just ideal, its required).
Maintaining Sanity (Read Twice)
There’s a recurring theme when it comes to prepping for the King of the Hammers- plan ahead and then plan again. You’re going to be at this event for a long while, very soon. This is more relevant than ever as the team at Ultra4 has organized an incredibly awesome, action-packed event for 2021. You have every reason to stay the entire time, this year. So here’s the deal- don’t bring somebody who you wouldn’t otherwise want to hang out with. Yes you might want a bigger pit crew, yes you might want to have another pre-run vehicle BUT make sure the people you bring are bearable to be around. Your going to be living with these folks for 10 days, choose wisely. That being said, sometimes the greatest value in those you choose is not initially recognized. We had a couple family members tag along last time, primarily for general support. What we did not realize is how they would be the MVP of the entire team. Our mechanical failures during pre-running and racing left us consumed to working on and recovering the vehicle. Our family members were insatiably valuable by cooking meals and coordinating recovery efforts.
What’s Next? Racing. Survival. Recovery. (which you shouldn’t need if you read the next article)
We wish we had somebody to tell us all of this stuff (logistics and race tips) ahead of time. We had to learn the hard way and have so much information to tell that you will not find anywhere else. We’re going to try and put it all together in one easy-to-follow, comprehensive piece. Hopefully our timing isn’t terribly late. If you have any questions or want to see other types of information, feel free to DM us on facebook or instagram at dracomotorsports. If you want the low-down on surviving the race portion of KOH ’21, read our next upcoming article.
Driver of the #428 Draco Motorsports Polaris RZR. Co-Driver for the #804 Can-Am X3 during King of the Hammers. Ultra4!!