All involved with Ultra 4 have heard the story of how Ultra 4 Racing or originally, the King of the Hammers was born, when a couple of friends decided to race for the bragging rights and a case of beer. Knowing there had to be more to the story, we did a little more research into the history of the new motorsport.
It’s true that the first race in 2007 was planned one evening, on a napkin, in a bar by Dave Cole and Jeff Knoll. Cole was a championship rock-crawler. Knoll was involved in desert racing and had experience in running similar events. Together they made a great team for running an event that combined the best of both worlds. After working out the logistics, they invited twelve guys to meet them out in Johnson Valley for some fun. The group who showed up were told nothing about what the day had in store until they all arrived. That very first King of the Hammers race was run in secret – no spectators, no vendors, just some guys having fun in their trucks.
The course for that first 2007 King of The Hammers race was listed as:
Lake bed to Outer Limits
Up – Outer Limits
Down – Aftershock
Down – Sunbonnet
Up – Devil’s Slide
Down – Hell’s Gate
Take a right toward – Landers
Up the slide towards the end of – Sledge(hammer)
Up – Jack(hammer)
Down – Jack North
Up – Wrecking Ball
Down – Claw(hammer)
Back to the lake bed for the finish line
Clocking in at just over 35 miles long, there were twelve checkpoints throughout the course with registers to sign to make sure all trails were completed. JR Reynolds had the home court advantage and won the race within an amazing 2:57 hrs. Tracy Jordan, came in around half an hour later.
Most of the others took over five hours to cross the finish. Some drivers, like Jordan, had never been to Johnson Valley before and were relying solely on GPS to find their way through the unmarked course.
After the non-event was completed, Jeff Knoll posted on a forum asking everyone how fast they thought someone could run eight trails consecutively at the Hammers. Dave Cole stirred things up by betting $100 that no one could do it in less than five hours. After garnering interest they shared the results of the secret race and everyone wanted to give it a shot for themselves. That is how King of the Hammers came to be.
So how is it OG13 if there were only twelve drivers at that first race? We questioned JT Taylor about this at the 2015 King of Portugal Ultra 4 European event, he informed us that when they had T-shirts made to commemorate that first race, there was an error made between himself and Dave Cole during a phone conversation and what was supposed to be OG12 was printed as OG13. They’ve used OG13 (Original Guys 13) ever since and now many sources refer to the original “13” racers… but you now know better.
The first “official” race in 2008 was still a non-spectator event. It was 50 miles of desert racing and seven Hammers trails. Around 50 drivers competed, a combination of top desert racers and top rock crawlers, each wanting to see how well they would handle on each other’s turf. Shannon Campbell was crowned King of the Hammers after coming in from dead last to take the lead, his dramatic finish creating even more interest in this extreme form of racing.
Then Hammerking Productions was established, spectators were invited, and sponsors signed up. The Ultra4 class was created (dubbed “unlimited”, it’s only qualifier is that a race vehicle must be capable of 4WD). The Ultra4 Racing U.S. series now comprises of several qualifying races across the country to earn a chance to compete at King of the Hammers. The big race, King of the Hammers, is now a week-long event attracting over 170 race teams in various events and more than 50,000 spectators, living in “Hammer Town” a temporary town on the desert flats.
The popularity of this extreme motorsport continues to grow and has now gone international, with the Ultra 4 European and Ultra 4 Australian series, both having a very similar take on the US format.