KOH Home of Heartbreak, and Glory.

For John Currie and Larry McRae King of the Hammers has so far been an experience that brings with it pats on the back, and hand shakes of congratulations. Both men have a win under their belts from last Sundays Smittybuilt Every Man Challenge; the first race of the weeklong event in Johnson Valley California. But for others the week has been a struggle.  New cars often bring with them unknown gremlins that are difficult to overcome in the remote desert location. The nearest small town is more than an hour drive, and a city two. Spun bearings in a high performance motor means a two day wait for parts to be shipped, or worse an all day drive in search of parts to as far away as San Diego, or Los Angeles.


Transmission issues seem to be the common denominator for problems here in Hammertown, with many teams changing transmissions multiple times. Steering geometry, on the new IFS cars, as well as front differential issues are plaguing some of the perceived front-runners. There is no way to know how a car will react until you get tuning time in, and when you are building under a tight deadline, its almost always a recipe for disaster.


Heartbreak here in Hammertown is a longstanding tradition. Drivers struggle working all hours of the night in the cold temperature, and than spend the whole days preparing for a race that many never even have the opportunity to start. Nothing cuts deeper than beating all the odds, and then crashing your car tuning. Such is the case with first time KOH racer Eric Morales. Morales who’s dreamed of racing KOH since 2008 built one of the most talked about straight axle cars leading up to KOH, and he put KOH Co-founder Jeff Knoll in the drivers seat for the first leg of the race. While the duo down played the race effort, Knoll spent day’s pre running a desert he already knows like the back of his hand, and Morales spared no expense building a monster.


While Knoll continued crafting a plan for the course, Morales spent a whole day shock tuning the car which drew responses from on lookers as the fastest car they have ever seen out of the box, and even past KOH Champion Loren Healy saying “That has to be the fastest straight axle car on the lake bed!” But fate would wave a black flag on the day when Morales making an 85 mile an hour pass thru the deep whoops of the King shocks test course, yard sailed the machine into a multiple end over end roll that would result in catastrophic failure of the front axle and damage to the rear of the chassis.  The wreck would have to be dragged back to the pits where a very sore car owner and team would sleep on the thought of if it will be possible to repair it enough to even take a green flag on Friday.


Such is the common theme at KOH. The badly damaged car a reminder to the multiple teams and drivers who stopped in on Morales to make sure he was ok, and offer support if the decision was made to put it back together. The very drivers that would compete against Morales, making time from their own effort to lend a hand, parts, or knowledge to give the team another shot at this amazing race. For all its heartbreak, and glory the fellowship of the participants in this test of man and machine give a glimpse into what makes King of the Hammers like no other race on the planet.


The King of the Hammers continues today with the start of time trials, and will continue until Fridays main event.

Photos provided by Tammy Wise.


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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