The King of the Hammers (race? festival? party? all of the above?) gets bigger every year. Besides the Nitto Race of Kings and 4WP Every Man Challenge main events, a combination of high-speed desert and technical rock trail sections, there are short races all week around "Hammertown" in Johnson Valley, CA.

The Holley EFI Shootout is a run-what-you-brung free-for-all race, up and over one of the hammer rock trails, at night. King of the Motos is motorcycle mounted riders tackling the whole KOH course, with the Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship being the same, but for side-by-sides. The Great American Short Course powered by Optima Batteries is like a motocross race for various classes of trucks, buggies, VWs, UTVs, karts, and kids, run door to door, with a pack of other racers. And the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge is the high-speed desert sections of the KOH course without the rock crawling sections. 

Once again, more often than not, if you looked closely at the cars of the top drivers, you'd see most of them are using Wilwood brakes.

Drivers using Wilwood swept the podiums of the 4500, 4600, and 4800 classes, and the Everyman Challenge. The quickest qualifier on the short course Toyo Tires Desert Challenge UTV race was a Wilwood-equipped driver as well, who beat the open class, and pro-mods in a stock class rig.

Toyo Tires Desert Challenge

Dustin Jones #T978 Can-Am UTV

For the fifth year, Toyo Tires sponsored an open desert race run on a 40-mile loop around Johnson Valley. On this course, they run unlimited trucks, limited trucks, buggies, and UTVs. Qualifying was one lap of the loop, with the actual race being five laps/200 miles.

The UTVs race in Stock (limited modifications), Pro-Mod, and Unlimited classes. Despite being in a Stock class UTV, #T978 Dustin Jones qualified in the first spot, 15 seconds faster than second place in an Open class.

During the actual race, however, Dustin could not keep up the pace he set in qualifying. The punishing course slowed him down, and he had to stop briefly on the first lap because of a problem. Still, despite being in a Stock class UTV, Dustin managed to finish 14th out of 117 UTVs and buggies overall and first in the Stock class. He was more than two minutes ahead of the next driver in his class.

Dustin's Can-Am UTV is equipped with the race-spec version of the new Wilwood UTV six piston big brake kits. Check out all the applications here: UTV Brakes

Class 4400 Unlimited - Race of Kings

Rusty Blyler's Jeep (green) and son Josh (teal) lined up before the start

Many people were heard to say about the 2023 King of the Hammers, "This is the toughest course ever," and while that may be true, it has been the case pretty much every year. Two-time KOH winner (and winner of the 4600 class the day before), Loren Healy had problems from the first lap with his 4400 Bronco and lost his steering on the second, putting him out of the race. He was credited with finishing 58th.

Two other former kings, Shannon Campbell, and Eric Miller, also ran into problems, finishing 38th and 36th, respectively. On the other side of the coin was Robby Gordon, who didn't have time to pre-run the course and though he was driving a borrowed car, started 106th and finished ninth!

The first and second-place finishers were battling all day on the course, having started a minute apart in the first and second rows. At the end of the third loop, many saw Jason Sherer cross the line first and thought he had won it despite having a motor down two cylinders for the last lap, limiting his top speed. But Raul Gomez crossed the line less than a minute behind him, which means since he started later, he was the winner.

Congratulations on a hard fought battle, gentlemen!

In the third and fourth spots, using Wilwood brakes, were Josh Blyler and his father, Rusty. These were the two highest-finishing solid axle cars, so it seems this year's course favored the more agile independent suspension cars, over the more durable solid axles. But the course is different every year.

4500, 4600, 4800 Classes - Everyman Challenge

Jeremy Jones 4800 class race rig

Wilwood brakes are found on many 4400 class cars, but every top finisher in the Everyman Challenge 4500, 4600, and 4800 classes uses Wilwood brakes. These cars are slightly less capable than the Unlimited class rigs because of limits on what chassis, tires and shocks they can run, but they race on the same demanding course.

The 4800 Branik Motorsports Legends class, created as a home to formerly 4400 Unlimited cars that are no longer state of the art, is the fastest of the EMC classes. All three top finishers were equipped with Wilwood brakes. Jeremy Jones took first in class and first overall in the EMC, while Stott Foley took second in both. Dan Fresh finished third but was edged out overall by a 4500 racer in the ECM.

4500 is the Yukon Gear and Axle Modified class, which cannot be a complete tube frame car but must have an OEM style or be based on an OEM frame. Fastest in class was Duane Garretson, who also got third overall in his old-school Ford Bronco-based rig. Behind him were Troy Digby and Peter Doolan in second and third, respectively.

The 4600 Currie Enterprises class is called "stock," but these are a long way away from the Jeeps and Broncos you see at the mall. They must use a factory frame, engine, and transmission, and can only go up to 35" tires. That being said, Ford has put a lot of development money into their EMC 4600 Broncos, and it paid off. Two-time KOH unlimited class winner Loren Healy won the 4600 class and beat a lot of 4500 and 4800 racers to take fourth overall, with Brad Lovell right behind him in another Ford Bronco for second and fifth overall. Bailey Cole rounded out the podium in a third Bronco. All of them use Wilwood brakes.

At the Wilwood booth, our staff was helping racers and spectators alike with their braking needs. On display on Wilwood Mike's RZR were the new Wilwood UTV six piston front, four piston rear, big brake kits for Can-Am and Polaris (and soon Honda) UTVs. At the other end of the booth, a Chevy Silverado Trailboss showed off the new AERO6-DM direct-mount bolt-on upgrade kit now available for Chevy/GMC, Ford, Jeep and select Toyota trucks. These new kits fit in most 17" and larger wheels.


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