With the final group of racers from the 2024 Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Prologue filtered across the finish line, something was stirring out on the lakebed of Johnson Valley, California. A buzzing echoed across the valley, then a dust cloud grew in the distance. Finally, the first VW of the swarm emerged followed by more than 35 more. It was time for the 2024 King Of The Hammers Baja Vida Class 11 Showdown.
The VW Bugs filed onto the lakebed and then formed a start line across the dried mud. Each driver made last-minute preparations for the wild an chaos that was soon to come. A land rush start was only minutes away. A start notice was announced with directions on where the green flag would drop and when. Quickly, the drivers were strapped in and the sound of almost 40 air-cooled engines filled the lakebed.
Then it happened with a few minutes till the green flag, Donny Donovan seemed to pop the clutch and jump forward a few feet. This started a chain reaction as about 10 cars saw the movement and took off, which led to about 10 more giving chase. Within 30 seconds the entire field was gone except for one lonely bug who needed a push to get going.
Green flag or not the race was on, and the first 4-mile lap was underway. The race was designated as 45 minutes +1 lap. Which would be a challenge across a mix of sand, rock, and rutted-out racecourse ready to swallow the Class 11 VWs.
The Bugs Swarm King of the Hammers: 2024 Baja Vida Class 11 Showdown
With the front runners leading the pack came back around onto the lakebed it was Blake Wilkey with a commanding lead. Pulling double duty on the day, racing his Baja Bug Trophy Truck Jaws in the prologue earlier that morning. He was tackling the course like he was still in his unlimited vehicle with two feet of suspension and setting the pace.
As the clock ticked down and laps added up, broken cars littered the track. In total only nine bugs finished on the lead lap. The rough course was as punishing as we have come to expect from a King of The Hammers race.
When the checkered flag finally waived it was Blake Wilkey in his signature Shreddy VW Class 11 across the line first. Leading the race the entire way once he pushed out front, no one could catch him. He was able to complete 5 laps in total.
Oliver Flemate was Wilkey’s closest challenger, finishing just under 2 minutes back. He was charging hard and on the later laps looked to be reeling in Wilkey. Ryan Millen was next in line rounding out the podium.
After the race, Blake commented about having the VW Bugs being a part of KOH.
“I love the history of Class 11 racing and the culture around it, and to see it celebrated at King of the Hammers is rad.” – Blake Wilkey
Off Road Xtreme also had a chance to meet up with another driver, Kayden Wells to talk a little about what it’s like to race both in the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge UTV race and Baja Vida Class 11 Showdown.
“The Class 11 is one-wheel drive with four inches of suspension travel. The UTV is almost point and go, while driving the 11 is about searching for lines that are more hardpack or watered down. You have to do every little thing to get traction, even if it means getting offline to use a couple of bushes for extra traction. Last year I was more exhausted after the Class 11 race than the whole 200 miles in the UTV.” – Kayden Wells
2024 Baja Vida Class 11 Showdown Results
In all the 2024 Baja Vida Class 11 Showdown did not disappoint. It was the perfect amount of hard racing and chaos that fits right into King of the Hammers. To check out the full results head over to KOH’s official website here. Also, Stay Tuned for more action from Johnson Valley and the 2024 King of the Hammers.
- – Blake Wilkey – 58:50.5
- – Oliver Flemate – + 01:47.8
- – Ryan Millen – + 03:08.7
- – David Sanchez – + 04:09.2
- – Donny Donovan – + 04:38.2