King of the Hammers took to the lakebed of Johnson Valley, Ca, for the first day of racing as the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge for limited classes. They would battle it out all day for an epic day of racing. Once finished, as the sun went down, the Class 11’s began staging for the second annual Baja Jerky Class 11 Showdown presented by EMPI.
The race consisted of a two-mile short course in and around Hammer Town. Last year there was a land rush start, but having 16 cars racing resulted in major carnage; however, this year’s race had 26 entries, so they opted for a rolling start. A qualifying lap had determined the start position for the racers.
Often seen in the RDC Forum thread, president and founder of Ultra4, Dave Cole, truly believes in developing races for racers, meaning he openly takes input from racers to help develop a better event tailored to their wants. And this race was no exception to make this a racer’s race.
All 26 teams gathered around the starting line with drivers giving them an opportunity to discuss how they would want their race. So with the incredible voting system of raising hands, they settled on a 20 lap race, the first person across the finish wins.
The competition was stacked with the former winner of the 2021 Class 11 Shootout fan-favorite Blake Wilkey and the legendary Mr. Baja himself, Larry Roeseler, who got behind the wheel as well. Even Ultra4 4400 racers Shannon Campbell and Bryan Crofts have added this race to their busy schedule for the week. But tying in incredibly successful Class 11 racers like Cisco Bio, Roberto Robles, and Ryan Rodriguez, there was no doubt it would be an exciting race. This is by far one of the most attended races all week as fans were shoulder to shoulder and even sitting on top of motorhomes to spectate.
With qualifying and the drivers meeting out of the way, the green flag dropped, and off they went. No surprise that Blake Wilkey and Cisco Bio would immediately be battling it out for the first place. Blake pulled away with an early lead making Cisco work if he wanted to get that win.
Early on, we saw a lot of carnage, cars going door to door— even a few roll-rovers. But screaming 80 HP (maybe), sending it off the tabletop jump, then going up the rocky course around the hill named “Short Bus.” The rock section proved to be the most challenging part of the course for the racers, which claimed several mechanical failures early on in the race.
Cisco had dropped back, and the battle began for position between second and third. With a clear lead out front for Blake, all he had to do was keep a steady pace going to win. Roberto Robles reeled him in, and Ryan Rodriguez wasn’t far behind. It was a legitimate battle between them as they flew across the tabletop jump door to door. After all, it was a $15,000 purse up for grabs and $11,000 for the winner.
But in the end, it was none other than Blake Wilkey who was victorious in his 1969 VW Bug affectionately named “Slug Shark.” This would be the second consecutive win at KOH for Blake with a time of 42:24, a well-deserved win regardless.
“King of the Hammers was known for rocks, and there was a lot of rocks; my stock german 1969 Method Wheels show every rock we hit out there. It is now very bent.”
– Blake Wilkey
Following suit was Roberto Robles in second place with a time four seconds off of Blake’s for 42:28. But a significant lead in front of third-place Cisco Bio with the time of 42:28.
Class 11 is certainly becoming a fan favorite; we even wrote a story on why we think Class 11 is one of the most exciting classes in desert racing. It was an event to remember out of the week-long craziness at King of the Hammers. We can’t wait until next year when 30 plus cars are racing.