The EMC KOH 2015 was conceived as something like an after-thought to cater for all the drivers who wanted to race but hadn’t got the means to build an ULTRA4 car… but like everything else spawned from the sacred sands of Johnson Valley the class exploded and took on a life of its own.
For cars with ladder chassis and limited to 37 inch tyres it was split into Stock and Modifed and last year had the Spec class and Legends were added to it. Yesterday an incredible 95 cars were unleashed into the desert.
The course was the same as wednesday’s UTV demolition derby but the EMC KOH 2015 cars are a little tougher so we were expecting more than 2 to finish…
Winner of the Legends class was a very happy Australian. Ben Napier has been racing for 6 years and isn’t exactly known as the luckiest driver in the field but today it all came together for him.
INTERVIEW: “This is the original Bomber car made by Randy Slawson. He raced it for a year and then I bought it off him and raced it for three years but then retired it when I built my new car. Now it qualifies for the Legends class and as I want more seat time I entered it… and got some good luck by getting drawn for pole. We started behind the Modified and Spec cars so had a few people to pass and before we got to the first crawl in Crowbar and at about Race Mile 20 we’d got by about 20 people. Then it was just a matter of picking cars off one by one. The only problem we had was the transmission getting a little hot. That was it. We had a very good day and after these years of trying I finally won and am the first non-American ULTRA4 winner on American soil, and that feels really good!”
In the Modified class we are used to seeing the red Currie Savvy Jeep on the top of the podium but for most of the day it didn’t look like it would happen again. Brandon Currie, the son of 3-time former winner John Currie had some time to tell me about his day.
INTERVIEW: “We started 31st but went hard from the flag and by Race Mile 25 were in 2nd place… mainly because we took a few risks in the desert so that we wouldn’t get stuck in the canyon in a bottleneck. We passed Jordan Pellrgrino but he stuck with us and overtook us again and then we had a flat on Fissure Mountain and spent about 5 minutes changing it. Then Lance Clifford in the Fox Spec car got by but he got stuck in Sledgehammer. My co-driver got out to help him but we ended up giving him a nudge to push him off the rock we was stuck on. Then we got stuck on Jackhammer and Pellrgrino pushed us up. We had a few issues going on that we had to deal with. The transmission overheated and switched the engine into limp mode so we had to drive while looking at the temperature gauge. He was driving well and was leading so we were going as hard as we could to catch him but on the second time through Crowbar we caught a rock and cut the tyre. Then we had to really push. We knew we had to be 2 minutes behind him because of corrected time but then at RM48 he broke something in the transmission and we had to push him off the course… and then cruise to the finish. My dad has won the EMC for the past 3 years but has stepped up to the big class so taking the car this year there was pressure on me, but I am proud to say that the Currie names remains unbeaten in the King of the Hammers EMC!”
Taking the wheel of one of Dave Cole’s Spec cars was Lance Clifford, co-driver of current Baja 1000 champion Rob MacCahren.
INTERVIEW: “The first time I sat behind the wheel of it was at the start line so I was just out for some fun, especially as I am in the main race tomorrow, but I am too competitive so when the green flag dropped it was Game On! I started picking people off and overtook the whole Spec class after 1 mile in one pass! But I had a tangle with Jessi Combes… I was moving over to s a smoother lane through the whoops in the sand and she moved over and clipped my rear tyre which made her flip. I had no idea anything had happened but she was waiting for me on the finish line! We had a hug though, so everything is OK. Anyway, we got to Pit 1 and knew that we were doing well and by the time we got to Chocolate Thunder we were 1st overall… although I didn’t know it! We stopped for fuel in the remote pit and asked how many cars there was in front of us and they said, “None!” So then we got to Crowbar for the second time and were looking good but the engine overheated because the fans had stopped. It took about 20 minutes to hardwire them straight to the battery but the repair didn’t last too long and we had to stop again. Two cars passed us and then we got to the top of Crowbar and found abandoned cars from the first lap blocking both the trail and the bypass route. We tried to find a ‘creative’ way around but it didn’t work too well and we tipped over. One of the guys with a broken car winched us back but then our battery was dead and I had to run down to get some jump leads and we lost about an hour and a half. Luke Johnson got by us just as we were buckling up and we couldn’t have that so we pushed and caught him pretty quickly and once we were in front we knew we’d won the class. It was really good fun at KOH 2015 EMC. We were laughing all day and having a good time!”
Full results for the Smittybilt Everyman Challenge are in the ULTRA4 Racing website.
Today sees the big guns out. The EMC is for cars that resemble their road-going counterparts, the Nitto King of the Hammers is for cars that don’t. 750bhp fire-spitting monsters on 40 inch tyres piloted by some of the most insane and capable drivers in the world. 2009 winner Jason Scherer has the advantage of pole, first over the line last year Tom Wayes has had some map and course marker reading lessons, Shannon Campbell is more hungry for victory than ever, Levi Shirley has a stunning new car that’s designed so he can see over the wheel properly, Ben Napier now has the fresh taste of victory, Loren Healy has won pretty much everything he entered in the last year, Tony Pellrgrino is a consistent finisher with a new car, Eric Miller is in a car he knows well… and there are a dozen other drivers all capable of taking their first win.
Basically it’s the most open and competitive race ever. You need to watch it. Watch the free streaming link here! www.ultra4racing.com