The usually sedate environs of Johnson Valley, Southern California, recently underwent its annual transformation of some 6,000 acres of parched lake bed into the epicenter of North American off-road racing: The mega King of Hammers Challenge. What started off as one-day technical race, for single-purpose rock-crawling rigs in 2008, the event has, over the years, been growing exponentially to include UTVs, desert-racing spec trucks, buggies, and motorcycles.
In total, some 1,250 entries, encompassing a wide variety of off-road racing vehicles, made the trek to Johnson Valley for the 2023 edition of the King of Hammers. The 6100 Spec Trophy Class, OTSFF/MOTUL’s designated class, attracted 74 entries. Up from the norm of between 30 and 40 vehicles that race at most other desert events.
In addition to attracting a record number of off-road racing teams and privateers, this year’s event saw more than 90,000 off-road obsessed spectators flock to the desert to what has become a 10-day extravaganza.
Rugged hard-pack to sandy desert terrain, ranging from flat and semi-flat sections strewn with shale, rocks, and boulders, and subject to numerous breath-taking elevation changes, was on the menu for Team OTSFF/MOTUL’s Andre Laurin (owner/driver) and Robert Hamilton (co-driver).
When all was said and done on Sunday, February 5th, Laurin and Hamilton collected a 19th overall finish in the 6100 Class. A top-five would have been in the cards for the duo, had it not been for the technical issue they encountered in their 40-mile qualifying lap on Saturday, February 4th. This hitch resulted in a worst-case scenario for the team: They racked up a DNF.
Unlike most off-road qualifying sessions, which determine the main event’s starting position, the King of Hammers qualifying time was tagged on to each driver’s total main event race time. The race, held on Sunday, consisted of two 95-mile laps that Laurin, a newbie to the King of Hammers, had to admit really was tougher than any other off-road challenge he has ever participated in.
“It was beyond tough. So challenging it made some of the other ‘really’ tough races I’ve been in almost seem like a Sunday drive. I must credit Robert for getting me to dig really deep inside myself, mentally and physically, to push the envelope and get through this race,” Laurin said. “Fortunately, the truck performed flawlessly. It just ate up the circuit as if it were sponge cake. We pushed hard. The BF Goodrich Tires that we are running this season were amazing beyond words. Incredible is all I can say. I was able to coax an extra five miles per hour above our usual top speed, thanks to the tires’ circumference and design, and our gear ratio.”
“The King of Hammers event is definitely a grinder. You can’t let your guard down for a second, if you want to survive and keep your vehicle in the mix. Andre and I are meshing more and more every time we get in the truck. We’re complimenting each other’s abilities, pushing ourselves to the max,” Hamilton said. “Considering that more than half of the entries DNFd, we are happy to not just finish where we did, but that we finished at all. By the end of the day, it looked like a giant automotive graveyard out there. Vehicles banged up and mechanically disabled, if they were still on four wheels, and many more on their side or on their roof.”
Team OTSFF/MOTUL would like to thank all the individuals and partnering companies for their invaluable support, helping make our participation in the 2023 King of Hammers Challenge possible. You guys are awesome! We owe you all a debt of gratitude. See you at the Mint 400 in March.
- From Team OTSFF/MOTUL