For the 4900/UTV race at King of the Hammers, this was Greg’s first time driving KOH following two previous KOHs as a co-driver for Matt. Greg Torney and his brother Ben Torney piloted the 428 X3 on Thursday’s Can-Am King of the Hammers. Even though the car was a little beat up on the start line, following many miles of aggressive prerunning, we felt more prepared and ready to crush this race than ever before. As things ultimately panned out, our race ended earlier than most when the front SmartLok differentially utterly exploded leaving the vehicle in 2wd.-Team Draco Motorsports
Finishing this Race Begins at Qualifying
Many people differ on this opinion and, honestly, no view is more right than another when it comes to this. I used to be in the ‘qualifying doesn’t matter at King of the Hammers’ boat but have since changed views. If the UTV race ever gets a third lap, like the 4400, I think the latter perspective may come into play. Unfortunately, time and time again we’ve seen the UTV event turn into a sprint more than it was ever intended. There’s an incredible spread when it comes to driver experience/skill in the UTV class- generally speaking, I feel that the UTV class has some of the greatest drivers (both established and upcoming) in the sport of offroad racing. Likewise, the UTV class ALSO has some of the most inexperienced drivers in the sport- this is totally OK, everyone starts somewhere (we were there not awfully long ago) BUT you don’t want to be stuck behind these folks on Spooners (KOH rock trail) or even Turkey Claw (KOH rock trail #1 at RM 2, for 2022). Your ability to finish, and especially finish well, depends on this.
Click on the photos for a bigger view (it’s worth it 😉 ) ^^^^^
Let’s Talk Qualifying for a Second.
KOH ’23 will be a different story with the intent of finishing and finishing well. For KOH ’22, however, I really wanted to one-up dad and pull off our first ever official finish of this grueling race. Of course I wasn’t going to just be slow and steady, too much dignity for that crap, but the goal of finishing really trumped all else. That being said, I really wanted to go through qualifying with a smooth rhythm and set an average pace. With this in mind, we landed #63 off the line for race day.
Here’s a tip. Unless you have a non-OEM fuel cell, do not leave your race car running for the entire (or even half) time between lineup at 7:15 am and off the start-line at 8:10 am. Your ability to finish the first 64 miles before crossing pit 1 the second time to get gas may depend on this.
Anyhow, with this gas-preservation technique in mind, we left the line at 8:15 am in ECO mode on our Can-Am X3. Let me tell you, the first 10 miles of this race suck bad. The course is very choppy, painfully rocky, and waiting to tip you over- we took it pretty easy here and meandered over to Turkey Claw (the first rock portion of this race). Now on 35″ tires, this trail truly is no problem. Our Sedona Trail Saws tower over these obstacles and made it an absolute breeze. Unfortunately, we quickly caught the two Can-Ams ahead of us on 32″ tires and painfully regretted our qualifying pace. These folks literally got hung up on every. single. obstacle. Our mistake in prerunning was in not looking at the alternate lines within this trail (yes, there are several).
Summary of What Happened from Here
- Made a mistake shifting out of low gear about 1/4 mile away from Turkey Claw. I chose the wrong location to do this in, hit the torque sensor on the X3, had to go back into low until we found a better spot out of the deep sand, then shift back in to high gear for the desert. Rookie move, lost about 30 seconds here!
- Somewhere along the way, first 5 miles of the race, we hit a rock (not sure where) that actually pulled the front skid plate DOWN. It made an awful grinding noise as it scooped up the desert. I honestly believed that a prop-shaft or differential (ironic right) had let go- it sounded that bad! Now even in 4wd, the deep sand out there will cause your car to slide. This being said, I couldn’t quite tell if we were dealing with a drivetrain issue. So I pulled over to inspect and discovered my skid plate dilemma. I jumped back in the car, after a 2 minute pause/detour, and back into the race we went.
Bone-Stock Suspension, Making Folks Look Real Bad.
Yep- you heard right. Even with totally stock springs and painfully stock valving, we were moving through the desert. We caught everyone that passed us when we pulled over and we caught many of the folks that were well ahead of those people. There was a huge hang-up in the V-Notch following Cougar Buttes that certainly hurt the pace. Several individuals bypassed this after a course official waved people through- we didn’t catch this gesture so we went back and waited in line until we could descend through the tippy notch. I actually rolled in this area during pre-running (at night of course) so was certainly cautious with my line choice come race day. Any how, we strolled through it and went back to hauling through the desert shortly after.
Dust and Gear Oil.
The pace was so much fun and we felt so good with the way things had been going, minus our skid-plate dilemma! Ben was crushing it on the navigation and way-point callouts which improved my driving tremendously. So we’re doing what we’d been doing and then come into a deep swell which required some brake pressure once we realized what was ahead. It wasn’t an overly hard hit, per say, but we definitely scooped up some dirt with the bumper. Immediately, however, I could smell the gear oil- for anyone who wrenches on their cars, this is a distinct scent not to be confused with any other. I was trying to convince myself that the vent line just got ripped off or that maybe the hard hit shocked the 4wd engagement motor, necessitating a reset. Even still, the 2wd behavior was painfully obvious and the beginning of the end was upon us.
The Beginning of the End.
I knew it and Ben did too. Something was wrong, the smell was obvious, and that ‘Check Engine/Check Smart Lok’ indicator was hard to miss. I applaud the class 10/class 1 racers for doing what they do in 2wd- for us, however, this was pretty scary. I had a horribly nasty roll at the Big Sky 200 in MT due to losing 4wd and was not willing to risk this at Hammers. We cut our pace in half, knowing the race was soon to end for us, and laughed/joked our way along from RM 50 to RM 64 (Pit 1) in 2wd. We hung around the pits for about an hour and a half, helping other racers out and just hanging around knowing that the differential was gone. We had a great time, even better attitudes in the aftermath of our failure, and couldn’t turn down the prospect of a cold beer once we got the car back to Hammertown.
The Best- Sedona, PRP, WARN, and Rugged Radios
First off, the Sedona Trail Saw 35″ tire is an absolute beast. Not only did we manage ZERO flats, but these tires absolutely tower over other ’35 inch’ UTV tires. These are an incredibly capable tire that make quick work out of even the nastiest rock trails. I am in love with this tire- the low weight, soft compound, unbelievable durability, and gargantuan size is an unbelievable advantage. If you haven’t considered these for your UTV, you really should.
Our PRP safety equipment is world-class and keeps us feeling safe and secure regardless of the terrain. The Podium Elite seats absorb all the bumps and chatter that my shocks certainly aren’t!
And of course, without the reliability and strength of our Warn AXON winch and Spydura recovery rope, none of this would be a reality! We have multiple KOH events on the same spydura recovery rope- these products are literally that tough. Warn equipment is anything but average.
Rugged Radios is hands down, the best when it comes to communication equipment for offroading and offroad racing. Our 6100 intercom was crystal clear and the radio was stronger than we had expected. Even after rolling twice in prerunning, the range and clarity was totally fine for race day!
And Of Course, Here’s Why SmartLok is Total Garbage
It was never a good ‘locker’ and apparently it’s not a good differential either. Yep.
Stay tuned for our 4400 Unlimited King of the Hammers Race Report!
Photocredit- Harlen Foley, Dirt Nation.
<<<FOR RACERS>>> If you haven’t got in touch with Harlen just yet, you should! They take incredible photos and are pleasure to work with. Pricing is excellent as well compared to the quantity of photos that you get, fyi.
Driver of the #428 Draco Motorsports Polaris RZR. Co-Driver for the #804 Can-Am X3 during King of the Hammers. Ultra4!!