The Ultra4 series was born out of the hugely popular King of the Hammers race, (KOH), held inJohnsonValley, Ca. each February. Ultra4 race vehicles are designed to handle extreme rock crawling and traverse open desert terrain at speed but the versatile 4 wheel drive rigs have been known to show up almost anywhere to race. For the season finale they would tackle a brutal course at Glen Helen that proved to be just as punishing as anything the racers have seen yet. The course included a quick lap of the Lucas Oil track and then it was straight up the ridgeline into the natural terrain that makes Glen Helen so special. Drivers had to negotiate perilously steep hills, twisty fire roads, motocross style table top jumps and a trip around the huge American flag on top of mount Glen Helen to complete a full lap.
The four hour grand prix style race was run in 2, two hour segments with an hour between to make quick repairs and to refuel. Moments before the scheduled break, word came over the radio that Shannon Campbell, blinded by dust, had plunged off the ridgeline into a deep canyon and rolled. The course would be red flagged until they could recover both Shannon and his car. Luckily, a few of the rigs were still equipped with their rock crawling winches which were used to haul the number 5 car back up to safety. In an amazing (but not uncommon) show of sportsmanship, second place in the points championship Ben Napier was helping to recover points leader Campbell’s rig from the bottom of the canyon.
The extended break due to Campbell’s mishap would allow both drivers and cars to cool off a bit before they hit the track again for round two. After a quick drivers meeting it was decided that the course would be shortened to bypass the ridge where Campbell went off. The result of the shorter course was two hours of frenetic action with the reinvigorated drivers racing bumper to bumper and up to three wide at times to beat the clock and each other. After the dust settled there were four drivers who finished on the lead lap having completed 28 times around the ruthless course. First over the line was Loren Healy followed by Jason Picket and JT Taylor with Nick Nelson in fourth. One lap down with 27 completed was Brad Falin in fifth and Tony Pellegrino in sixth.
After the race there were a lot of sore muscles, broken rigs and some hurt feelings but there was no shortage of ear to ear grins on dirty faces. It seems wherever the Ultra4 series chooses to line up for a race the result is some amazing action and a great time for all. If you’ve never been to an Ultra4 event you are missing out but don’t worry, the 2012, King of the Hammers race is just a few months away.
Photos by: Mike Ingalsbee, Kelly StClair and Simon Saines