TMS Blog

Crowning the 2019 King of the Hammers UTV in Johnson Valley, CA

Written by David Glassman

If you love taking your side-by-side off-roading, you have probably heard of the great King of the Hammers annual racing event in Johnson Valley, CA. For one week every year in February, Hammertown pops up out of the desert as over 50,000 off-roading fans and competitors come together for fun driving over sand and climbing an avalanche of rocks.

Beginning in 2007, Jeff Knoll and Dave Cole brought together a dozen of their friends to put their off-road machines to the test on the Means Dry Lake and nearby hills. After just a few short years, the ULTRA4 Racing Series was born and now a city springs up in the desert created by a fleet of RVs, international racing teams, and plenty of rock-crawling fans. Known as the King of the Hammers, this race sits at the pinnacle of the off-road season.

Come One and All to Qualify

Perhaps one of the best parts of King of the Hammers is that the week-long event has exploded to include a wide variety of machines and the off-road enthusiasts that pilot them. Over 500 teams register to qualify their rides in a variety of categories during the event.

The Everyman Challenge invites anyone with a rock-crawling capable machine to have a go at the expansive course with divisions that include 4800 Legends, 4500 Modified, and 4600 Stock ULTRA4 classes.

For the UTV 4900 class race, over 100 teams qualified their rides with the fastest times determining the starting order for the big event on Sunday, February 3rd.

The Course and the Challenge

This year the course is a 160-mile challenge that begins with 91 miles driving through the desert, over dry lake beds, and along winding ridgelines. The UTVs reach a top speed of over 100 mph on open segments of the course. After speeding through the first part of the loop, they are then faced with the rock-crawling portion of the competition that pushes transmissions, suspensions, and their chassis to the limit. The teams are given 9 hours to complete the challenge. Mechanical failures are common in the rougher segments of the race. The question for many competitors is: can they even survive the entire day?

Mitch Guthrie Jr. Takes the Trophy Again

Only 28 teams managed to complete the 2019 Can-Am UTV King of the Hammers race with 22-year-old Mitch Guthrie Jr. leading the pack with nearly 30 minutes between him and the runner-up Wayland Campbell. Guthrie took the trophy in 2018, as well, continuing the family legacy of off-road domination. His father brought home the King of the Hammers title six times in his career.

Guthrie Jr. started the day out front after scoring a top time in qualifying. However, his machine fell behind during the open desert segment. Once the competitors were slowed by the rocky portion of the course, he was able to overtake Phil Burton by selecting a smoother line through the obstacles. He noted he didn't even have to wrench once, saving crucial time and helping to increase his lead.

How did he do it? Well, even the best pilot needs a killer machine under them to win.

The Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity Guthrie Drove to Victory

ThumbOf course, Mitch and his father took their Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity into the shop and gave it every advantage possible in order to conquer the brutal landscape of the King of the Hammers. However, this new machine comes loaded from the factory ready to climb over almost any mountain you care to tackle. Let's check out the specs on the stock version of this year's winning ride:

  • Power through your off-road course with 168 horsepower and 114-lb ft. of torque
  • It stands at 72 inches wide for greater stability when attacking turns at speed and for resisting rollovers
  • The suspension has a full 25-inch usable travel on the front and rear for radical approaches to every obstacle
  • The FOX® 3.0 Internal Bypass Live Valve Shocks provide plenty of active cushion when rolling at high speed over rough terrain to protect you and the machine.
  • Its 8-ply 32-inch ITP® Coyote Tires are designed to dig in and flex for greater traction over rock, rubble, mud, and sand
  • Roll right over those little bumps with its 16-inch ground clearance
  • Xtreme Performance Isolated True On-Demand AWD/2WD allows you to choose when front-wheel drive is enough and when you need more

If you want to take a new UTV to California for next year's King of the Hammers off-road celebration, give the motorsports experts at Tousley Motorsports a call. We offer the complete line of Polaris UTVs designed for extreme exploration and are ready to ship anywhere in the lower 48.

David Glassman

David Glassman

David Glassman is President of Tousley Motorsports.

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