Despite chilly temperatures and high winds, more than 30,000 people (60,000 over the course of the event) poured into Johnson Valley OHV area last Friday to witness Randy Slawson and his co-driver and brother Mike make history at the Griffin King of the Hammers (KOH) presented by Nitto Tire. Slawson is no stranger to KOH, but 2013 marked the first time the driver and fabricator has held the scepter in his own hands. The Grand Terrace, California, resident has been part of KOH since the beginning, navigating Jeff Reynolds to victory at the inaugural race in 2007. Since that time, Slawson has been diligently working toward his own victory behind the wheel of the Bomber Fabrication car he built with his own hands.
Slawson had the ninth-fastest qualifying time last Wednesday, battling as a Last Chance Qualifier among 62 competitors for one of only a dozen spots in the main race. Slawson has employed this strategy for the past three years; choosing to focus exclusively on the Griffin King of the Hammers instead of running the entire Ultra4 series to pre-qualify for the race through another event. Strategy played a pivotal role in the race beyond qualifying. The 182-mile course covered three laps, with the first lap through fast wide-open desert and the final two laps through the Hammer rockcrawling trails.
At the end of 50 miles, Slawson was running in the top 10, remaining patient and letting the competition fall to attrition. “There was not a lot of traffic,” Slawson commented at the finish line. “It was windy so the dust wasn’t too bad. We were able to just run our own pace and everything just came together for us.”
Slawson chose to run the 10-ft. vertical rock wall on the Backdoor trail on his second lap to avoid traffic, while other frontrunners mistakenly waited until the last lap.
At the finish line, Slawson was followed by two-time King Shannon Campbell and newcomer Chicky Barton in third place, both in single-seat cars that required them to navigate through the maze of canyons in Johnson Valley in addition to driving. Only 27 of 129 competitors were able to complete the course, which was universally agreed to be the hardest in KOH’s history.
“The capabilities of Ultra4 vehicles grow by leaps and bounds each year,” promoter Dave Cole explained. “We added longer stretches of desert and more challenging rocks this year in order to test the abilities of these vehicles and drivers.”
Fans cheered on the competitors at various spectator areas and on two Jumbotrons providing live feeds from around the course. The live webcast was watched more than 470,000 times by 270,000 unique viewers, allowing fans from across the globe root for their favorite teams.
View the complete results here.