If King Of The Hammers is a new phrase to you, then let us tell you all about it. The organization that produces the race, Ultra4 Racing, calls it “The Ultimate Desert Race.” There is a good reason for that claim.
Unlike most desert off-road races in which the course traverses mostly wide open spaces with a few rocky obstacles thrown in the mix, King Of The Hammers involves a dozen or so steep boulder-strewn canyons, a few of them with vertical climbs taller than the race cars are long, and some wide open desert runs thrown in. It’s probably better thought of as high-speed endurance rock racing than anything else.
For three years now, John Currie of Currie Enterprises has been dominating the Everyman Challenge that is the major warm-up event during a week of racing, qualifying, and special competitions heading into the main feature race, the King Of The Hammers. This year, Currie has decided to kick things up a notch and jump into the main event, building and piloting a 4400 Unlimited Class race rig.
The 4400 Unlimited Class that features the premier rock racing vehicles in the event is made up of wild tube-chassis machines that frequently run powerful V8s, long travel suspension systems with multiple bypass reservoir shock absorbers, and 37- to 40-inch tires.
We got an invite to come down to the Currie shop and take a peek at the brand-new four-wheel-drive 4400 Unlimited Class race car while testing and construction was still underway. What we saw makes us think that John Currie will have a very good chance of continuing his winning streak in this new endeavor.
Starting with a chassis built by King Of The Hammers champ and extremely successful Ultra4 Racing Series contender Shannon Campbell, Currie dropped in a powerful 454 ci LSX V8, with a sturdy 4L80 four-speed automatic transmission behind it. A custom Magnaflow system takes care of exhaust duties. An Atlas transfer case (known for its bulletproof reputation) moves power from the transmission through custom JE Reel drivelines to a pair of modified Currie RockJock 70 axles.
These massive axles contain an Eaton E-Locker and an Eaton Detroit Locker. Special 10-5/8-inch ring gears were made to fit the differentials in the Currie RockJock 70s. A set of 35-spline axle shafts are used up front, with 40-spline axle shafts in the rear.
A normal thought process would put the E-Locker up front, and keep the Detroit Locker in back. However, during early testing, the team discovered something. By placing the Detroit Locker up front, they maximized traction and torque split for climbing obstacles, and it offered them a set-it-and-forget-it arrangement for the front RockJock 70.
With the E-Locker in the rear axle, and locking or unlocking available at the flip of a switch on the dashboard, the rear RockJock 70 offered full traction and torque for climbing when locked, but provided better control of the race car (the rear end would actually walk itself around obstacles better) in tough spots full of boulders.
The suspension setup is a four link design front and rear, with a pair of custom Bilstein two-inch coil-over reservoir shock absorbers and custom Bilstein three-inch triple bypass shock absorbers on the front axle. Out back are another pair of custom Bilstein two-inch coil-over reservoir shock absorbers and custom Bilstein three-inch triple-bypass shock absorbers.
At the ends of the RockJock 70 axles are StopTech brake calipers and 13-5/8-inch rotors for the ultimate in control. Outside of those, the team will be running Walker Evans wheels with BFGoodrich 39×13.50-inch Baja TA KR2 tires. A Howe ram-assisted steering system helps turn those massive meats. Sitting on the 4×4’s nose is a Warn winch just in case its help is needed for those really tough spots.
Drivers John Currie of Currie Enterprises and co-driver Gerald Lee of Savvy Offroad will be going after a fourth win during the 2015 King Of The Hammers event, but this time, they are after the “crown” so many desire. These men have the driving skills, and they have a brand-new 4400 Unlimited Class race car equipped with gobs of power and a roster of awesome equipment. With a little luck, the pair of competitors could be made “Kings” at this year’s “Ultimate Desert Race.”
Check out the full Gallery of photos below, and be sure to see our full video coverage of the 2015 King Of The Hammers race.