Spotlight on Murphy’s Law Motorsport

Editors note HMC’s Will Gentile joins us for this round of Spotlight, sharing his insight on Murphy’s Law Motorsports, but I wanted to share a unique story about this team, so please make sure and check out the the rest of the story for a view into what happens when you take a couple guys from Boston to the middle of the Nevada desert for the Vegas to Reno desert race.

By Will Gentile for

Lucas Murphy, the everyman of Ultra4 racing.  Hailing from the northeastern United States, Boston area Massachusetts to be exact, Lucas has embodied the “average Joe” angle that King of the Hammers style racing was created to cater to.  With a home garage built buggy made originally for trail riding and rock crawling, Lucas and co-driver Jon Hastie quickly found themselves hooked on racing after competing in the 2009 Rausch Creek Qualifier as their freshman effort and earning their spot in the 2010 King of the Hammers in the process.  Thrust headlong into full race mode, Lucas and Jon made all the necessary adjustments to their not-so-racecar in their best effort to finish the grueling desert race 2,500 miles across the country, their first ever.  Their car, affectionately dubbed “The Desert Turtle” based on its turtle shell dome-like appearance, was quick to disprove naysayers with not only a finish at its first KOH, but also in 23rd place.

In 2010, Lucas would again go on to qualify for 2011’s KOH with a fantastically consistent showing at races, both local and national (winning the Ultra4 SMORR race event overall), armed with a new beefier motor and reworked suspension. Ringing true to his everyman status, leading up to the 2011 King of the Hammers, he was told by his wife that he could not race until the addition on their house was complete that they were in the process of putting in.   Low and behold, Lucas built the addition to their house with the help of friends while prepping his car for the biggest race in rocksports, and finished both in time to drive across the country.

I spend a lot of time on the race course shooting for media, a lot of that time is spent at tracks edge getting the right angle for the right shot, and rarely does a car really make me nervous coming down the track as Lucas’ does.  Lucas and Jon pilot the Turtle down the track in an almost explosive uncontrollable precision that only they could possibly muster, akin to watching a snail fly by at 100mph, you’re left only to wonder “How is that even physically possible?!”  Murphy’s Law Motorsports, the name of their team, was named for the obvious, and as Lucas himself puts it, to prepare for the worst.  Their methodology and preparation, while not always conventional and “blingy” is race proven, with the most notable memory that comes to mind being my first glimpse of a crescent wrench attached to the inner fenderwell of the Turtle, strategically so for quick repair to close-by parts.  The two are engineers by trade, and as a result they build nearly every part on the car that is possible for them, so to say they know the ins and outs would be a severe understatement, further outlining not only their dedication, but their preparedness in race conditions.

Lucas is currently in the process of building an all new car to replace the Turtle in 2012, and will no doubt be a force behind the wheel of something actually built from the start to race.  Keep an eye out in the coming year.

How long have you been competing in Ultra 4 Racing?  
We have been competing in Ultra 4 Racing for 3 years.  Our first race was the 2009 Rausch Creek Qualifier

How long have you been racing?
I have been racing offroad since 2000 as part of the Society of Automotive Engineer’s BAJA SAE This is where I met my co-driver Jon and many of the Murphy’s Law Motorsports Team Members.  Prior to that I was involved in a racing sailboats.
Tell us about your past experiences in the King of the Hammers and where you have finished?
Our first year racing King of the Hammers was 2010, we placed 23rd place.  It was a hard fought race for us we broke the passenger side steering knuckle at the top of resolution.  My co-driver Jon took off for camp while I stripped down the front end.  I met him on his way back with a spare and put it on.  In the rush he grabbed the driver’s side knuckle.  It was there on the side of the race course that you could use the driver’s side knuckle on the passenger side of the car.
The 2011 King of the Hammers was our first ever DNF.  We were running a great race and had pushed towards the front of the pack.  We lost a rear driveshaft u-joint at about mile 95.  This was no big deal as we had the parts and tools on board to replace it, but the car slipped backward off an obstacle when it was put into park. The drive shaft Caught on a rock and acted as a long lever on the back of the transmission and broke the transmission case.  A bit of bad luck, but that’s racing.

What’s the attraction to racing of King of the Hammers for you?
Living the dream. We are competitive in the toughest single day offroad race in the world against the best of the best.
What’s your favorite part of the King of the Hammers?
The adventure.  Being able to say “I did that”  The whole race is epic,  even the scenery is amazing.   One of the moments I remember most from the first year we raced is coming over the crest of a ridge line on the course at sunset.  The view was  unbelievable, we were just blown away.  We almost wished we had a camera with us.
At the end of the day it makes for one hell of a story to tell your grand kids.

How do you physically and mentally prepare for this type of racing?
Mentally we try to focus on having a good time.  So much time and effort is involved so if it isn’t fun why do it.

On the physical side we bring our friend Travis.  Travis has many skills aside from  lifting heavy things he is an amazing cook in the worst conditions.  When others are eating Dinty Moore and canned chili we are eating a gourmet meal.  Being as we have to drive 3000 miles to get to the Hammers we try and eat right to keep ourselves feeling good

Teamwork is a big part of KOH, Tell us about your team for the King of the Hammers?
Teamwork makes the Dream Work.  Coming from 3000 miles away, every person who comes to the race on our team is making a sacrifice.  Our team is the key to our success. From building the car, to prepping it, to driving the 3000 miles to the race; just getting out there is a challenge.  None of it would happen without those guys and girls.  I would put our crew up against many a professional pit.  They practice everything from fuel pits to tire changes to component swaps.

How much does strategy play a part in KOH?
Strategy plays a major role in how we do everything.  This starts far in advance of the race.  Starting with how we design the car, how we prep it, where we put our spare parts and tool on the car and in the pits, when and how we fuel during the race, it’s all planned ahead of time. Murphy’s Law can strike at any time and we have contingency plans for everything.
What will it take to win the King of the Hammers in 2012?
A good Driver, a good car, some good prep, and a little bit of luck.
How much does a car vs. a drivers ability play into winning the King of the Hammers?
Driver ability is a huge component, but a driver must be paired with a fundamentally sound car. Compare the specs of my car to the specs of others we race against. You wouldn’t think it was anything special. You would likely rank it at the bottom of the class and you would never think that my car would win a race against, Derek West, Shannon Campbell, Loren Healey, and Erik Miller… but it has.


If you had the opportunity to participate in any race in the world, what would it be and why?
First thing I think of is the Baja 1000.  I would also love to do the Climb to the Clouds, its the oldest auto race in America.  It is just a few hours north of us in New Hampshire and it would be awesome to be part of that history.

Who is your racing idol and why?
Curt Leduc.  Curt grew up in Massachusetts and was able to go on to become a successful desert racer. Never Lift.

If you had an unlimited budget what would you build to compete in the King of the Hammers?
I’m not sure what it would look like, but you can be sure it would be wicked fast, and wind tunnel tested.

Do you have any advise to give someone who is aspiring to race the King of the Hammers?
Just go for it.  

Can you tell us about the sponsors and people that have made it possible for you to do this?
That list is extremely long, but first off I would like to thank my son Tracy and my wife Trish for supporting me and Jon’s wife Kate for her support. We have a ton of great team members who without we would be unable to race. There are so any of them, trying to list them would just end up with me leaving one out.

We could not even think about doing this without the support of our sponsors.  In no particular order:

Yukon Axle & Gear

Griffin Radiators

Fox Racing Shox

Raceline Wheels

Kessler Machine & Fabrication

Howe Performance Steering.

Ruff Stuff Specialties

Spiegel South Shore Scrap Metals

Flexcon Industries

The Facts Murphy’s Law Motorsports

Driver name:  Lucas Murphy                  Co-Driver Name:  Jon Hastie

Team Name: Murphy’s Law Motorsports     Car # 816

Age: 30                                                                 Hometown: Easton, MA

Chassis Builder: Murphy’s Law Motorsports    Engine: GM LQ9

Transmission:  4l60e                                              T-case: Atlas II

Axles F/R:  14 bolt/14 bolt                                            Lockers F/R: Spool/Yukon Grizzly

Seats: PRP                                                              Shocks: Fox

Tires: B.F. Goodrich                                                     Wheels:  Raceline

For a complete bio on Lucas Murphy please visit;

The rest of the story

by Jeff Knoll

Engineers are a different breed. I learned this first hand working as a plumbing design engineer 15 years ago. I never understood  I was just as bad, until a hot summer day in the Nevada desert moments before the start of the BITD Vegas to Reno off road race. If you put artists, and engineers in the same pit 15 minutes before the start of a race, and a crisis ensues it can be pure genius, or pure pandemonium depending on your outlook on life (entertainment none the less). The Ultra4 car was a thing of beauty in its Lamborghini red skin, the owner was suited up and ready to take this prize blazing across the desert when Lucas Murphy and Jon Hastie started asking questions.  “Where are the zip ties, duct tape and vice grips?” The fabricator who had labored over this thoroughbred for months offered a quick response to the effect of what do you mean?  In a moments notice the two started gathering the needed supplies from the chase truck and after some instigating from the perceived veteran of the group yours truly went to work engineering solutions to the needed storage of said items in a manner only an engineer could appreciate. “Wrap tape around this tube, grab some electrical tape, stack up the zip ties here!!” About the time the channel locks where getting clamped onto the car the duo noticed that the crew was topping off the fuel and the dripping fluid lost from the filler hose was vaporizing on the hot exhaust. “Stop!” screamed Lucas Murphy  “You simply can’t expect us to fuel this car in 112 degree heat in that manner, someone is going to die!”I assume he offered some mathematically equation as proof of a combustion factor, but in the chaos of the moment I just envisioned a fire bomb.

So armed with very little material, and only 10 minutes before the start of the race Jon and Lucas demonstrated pure engineering excellence as the rifled through the trailer looking for material to build a splash guard. Much to the dismay of the fabricator who seemed slightly offended by the thought of duct tape and zip ties being hung from his master piece as if a Christmas tree this latest offense was too much to bare. With shouts of concern at making the start, and a ruckus starting to boil between the crew members Lucas ripped the aluminum shelf off the trailer wall and burst from the trailer door screaming “I have it figured out!” Armed with a grinder, a cut off wheel, hose clamps, and a hammer Jon and Lucas set to work fashioning a splash shield from what moments before had been a fancy shelf in the trailer. The shelf now resembled a splash shield, but it looked more like a zit on the face of beauty to the artist who had created this master piece. “How do you like charcoal?” Lucas responded.

As the thoroughbred galloped to the starting line on its maiden voyage across the expansive Nevada desert Lucas and Jon jumped into the chase truck with the biggest smiles on their faces and Lucas quipped “Now it looks like a race car, the car show was yesterday!” I was thankful for the quick wit of the two when we later fueled the race car. Looking down at the exhaust pipe glowing red in anger from its blast through the silt beds, and offered my thanks to the two for their practical approach to an impractical situation. Lucas and Jon know all to well if you let Murphy Law take over, what ever can happen will happen.

About the Author

Jeff Knoll is the former Event Director for the King of the Hammers event. He has raced various classes in SCORE, BITD, MORE, and MDR. Following the California 200, Knoll travelled to Washington, DC to meet with BLM officials regarding the Special Recreation Permit policies of the BLM. Knoll serves on the BLM’s Desert Advisory Sub-Committee regarding Special Recreation Permits. Knoll also drafted language for Nevada’s Senate Bill 156 in 2011 regarding action sports safety.

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