Here is a day-by-day experience of my very first King of the Hammers:
2/2 Thursday - Driving to KOH, meeting dad in Fruita. We were supposed to leave on February 1st, but ended up doing engine work on the buggy. Hunter had been having a bad feeling about the engine for the last two weeks. On oil changes there was a lot of metal in the pan, and with the new Cam it just seemed unusual. He finally decided to follow his gut and had his good friend Morgan come up to the garage and change rod bearings and main bearings. It was really good that they did, the bearings were worn down into the copper and our engine wouldn’t have lasted another 50 miles. We finally loaded up and left about noon on Thursday
. Vail Pass was a mess, and it took us a long time to safely make it over. We planned on meeting my dad at his house in Fruita, having a quick dinner and heading on to Saint George, Utah. We were literally pulling out of his driveway when we noticed none of the lights on my Dad's trailer were working. Once we had fixed his wiring problem it was 10pm
, after an all nighter the night before we decided it was safer to sleep and drive all day Friday.
2/3 Friday - We woke up at 0430 to hit the road. Lots and lots of driving. But the weather is getting warmer! We made it to Barstow in time to do some grocery shopping in their weird stores. They sell cactus in the produce aisle…. We wouldn’t get to Hammertown in day light, but we had our camper company notified and they were going to leave it where we could get it so we could at least have somewhere to sleep. The town wasn’t full yet, but I got to experience my first approach to Hammertown and got into the fenced pit area! Our spot was 213 Genright, with fellow Colorado racers. We picked our home for the next week and got set up. Meanwhile, one of our dogs found a bunch of chocolate, and ate all of it. I carry activated charcoal with me so I was able treat her, but it meant I spent the night up with a very unhappy, sick pup.
2/4 Saturday - We took the day to get settled, move our pit crew in, and to check in with the registration desk. We were able to pre run a portion of lap one. Hunter was still unsure of our engine so we didn’t want to go too far in case it seized on us. We got to do the first 8 miles of lap one, join up on miles 56-60, and also hit miles 112-117. Lap one was rumored to be a bitch, and the first 8 miles were not great. Our vehicle is a straight axle and we struggle in some of the chop and rocks that IFS cars can float over (this killed us time wise in Arkansas). Our suspension is built more for rock crawling so speed isn’t #wasabi’s forte, but she tries! We found some areas we could get a better run on and called it a day. We pulled into the pits and changed our oil again, still glittery…
2/5 Sunday - We decided to pre-run some rocks to get a feel of how the car would handle. Jackhammer, Jack North, Chocolate Thunder and Wrecking Ball were our main worries. We pre-ran Jackhammer and Jack North without even pausing, the car felt great and responsive. Our tranny kept overheating so we stopped and figured out somehow we were blowing a fuse. We decided to keep running and proceed to Chocolate Thunder. As we approached there was what looked like a "nothing pile" of rocks in the middle of the path. As we got up to it we sunk right up to our driveshafts in the sand - high centering on the rocks. I got out in front of the few hundred spectators and tried to stack rocks with no success. I then got to meet the man “Mac” who was the supervisor volunteer at CT. We decided on a winch point, and he also decided that it would be there during the race as well. As we positioned our winch rope and when I went to pull it the cable itself pulled apart?! Now we were really stuck! Fortunately another team came by and used their bubba rope to pull us off the rocks. Mac also volunteered to come back to our pit later and teach me how to rewind a winch cable. We decided to proceed to Wrecking Ball, the trail was following the GPS ok, but it kept spinning and disorienting me. We were able to get to the waterfall on Wrecking Ball and attempted
the main center line. We got stuck in a position that was ugly and needed to winch out…without a winch. I got my strap out and was getting ready to find a point when the Lovell’s
caught up to us. They took the bypass and then proceeded to help me get us out! They were the nicest guys! While we were on Wrecking Ball our tires lost air, so we decided to head back to pits to try to work on all of our little problems. After a few conversations we figured our aluminum beadlock rings weren’t setting and we would have to torque them down more. My dad, Dave Brown and pit members Bob Brown and Marty spent the evening tightening every single bolt. We also figured out the short that was blowing the fuses. Mac actually did show up and taught me how to fix the winch cable! So awesome! Made some amazing tequila lime chicken with our pit crew member/chef Steve and called it a night.
2/6 Monday - Shock tuning day! We spent a good portion of the morning with King Shocks
tuning and dialing the car in. She was handling the bumps much better, but we were sitting a couple of inches taller then previously. We changed to ‘pop-offs’ in the rear valving to make the rear suspension respond faster. We had to pre-run the qualifying course in the dark because the show ‘Top Gear’ was filming on the course all day. We missed most of the Backdoor Shootout because of this, but we needed to practice and get to bed.
2/7 Tuesday- Qualifiers!!!
The day started out awesome - warm weather, beautiful sunshine, everything. We got in line and waited for our turn. It is so awesome being in line with all of the amazing cars and drivers! We had our course planned out, and as we started everything felt phenomenal. Hunter was calm and cool, and listening to all of my cues. As we got to the rock section we noticed the car wasn’t climbing as good as normal. But we still made it up in good time. Right as we got to the top my hans device got caught in my communication lines. I lost all of my connections and couldn’t hear or talk to Hunter. I tried to get my plugs back but I couldn’t find them. So instead I switched to hand signals. We cleared the Jeep
banner and dropped into the short course. I was trying to tell Hunter to check up a little bit, but by the time we were in the turn something went wrong. The car felt like it was being sucked towards the passenger side, and no matter what Hunter did the car just kept pulling passenger. We hit the lip of the turn and rolled onto the passenger side. My window net came in and pulled the top of the turn into the car. We continued on the side until we dropped off the edge and then flipped onto the roof and then the driver side. We were hoping that we had enough momentum to end up on the wheels again but we didn’t. Once we were righted, we headed up on stage for our interview. I am really glad we got up there, it was the only time I would see it this trip. Back in pits we took the car apart for our nut and bolt check and discovered our passenger front stub shaft was snapped in half! Time to start fixing and cleaning things for Friday!
2/8 Wednesday - I bought myself a new winch cable and found a professional grade Bubba Rope
from a sponsor. Changed the oil on the car, and it was far less sparkly. Looks like we are going to run the crap out of the engine Friday!
2/9 Thursday - Race Day Eve! We spent the day prepping the car. I was nervous but so excited. I spent a lot of time memorizing check points and specific markers on the race map. I wanted to be able to recall things like checkpoints and turns before we got there on GPS. Towards the afternoon fireworks started and my Dads dog began getting nervous. At one point she got out of his camper ahead of him and ran away. She had been spotted running out of Hammertown and onto the short course. We searched for her until well after 11pm
, we all hiked, drove jeeps, my Dad even got a ride around short course from the course designer. Brenna is afraid of people so we were very doubtful she would be found. My dad was so upset. We finally had to call it a night, we had to get up early for the race.
2/10 Friday - RACE DAY
Still no Brenna, my dad went out early to look for her. We had our friend Morgan take #wasabi out to warm her up. I walked to our lineup position and waited for her to come in. It was so cool to walk through Hammertown in my race suit! I was able to calm down and get us focused on the race. We had a plan to be consistent but easy the first 8 miles. We didn’t want to break in the first little bit. Our green flag take off was perfect. The whole first lap was pretty much text book, we even got to drive through the military base. When we got to Backdoor we had been passing people and moving up in the times. We had to stop before we got into the main part of Backdoor and our engine started to struggle. We managed to keep it running, but by the time it was our turn to drop down the wall, we were having real problems. We did a wheel stand dropping in and had no response from the gas pedal! Fortunately we tipped passenger side and a rock caught the wheel keeping us upright!
We were able to get into the pits and have our engine looked at. 30 minutes later
we left pits with a cleaned air filter and a fixed MAF sensor. Lap 2 we were able to make up more time and get through most of the lap without difficulty including all of the rock trails. As soon as we started towards pit 2A we started having engine problems again. We radioed to relay to have Morgan meet us at 2A for more engine help. He pulled in at about the same time we did. While they were doing our nut and bolt check, they found that our passenger side axle joint cap was lose and backing out. They were able to weld it in place at the same time Morgan got a new air filter in place and sent us back out. The rest of the lap was uneventful and everything was going perfect. We decided that after our hour lost in pits we would need to hustle the rest of the race. We passed main and went out on to lap three. We made our turn off for Spooner and, while difficult, cleared the trail up to checkpoint 13. We dropped into Outer Limits and were making great time. At about mile marker 140 we both spotted a line that was off to our left, we both thought it would have been better but decided to continue straight. It happened so fast neither of us even know exactly what went wrong. We went up and over at a high rate of speed and crashed head on into a massive rock. We were able to get out of the car with some work, and looked all over for winch points. Everything we tried pulled out of the hill and fell onto the car, and our Hi-Lift jack is only accessible from the driver side which was pinned down.
After hours of struggling we decided we only had one choice left, and that was the heart wrenching decision to call the race. A hike up to check point 13 reveled that we would have to wait for the course to clear to get recovery. I couldn’t get a hold of the pits so I ran the mile or so to 2A, en route I was able to call one of our pit crew at 2B so they could radio 2A for me to let them know I was coming in hot on foot :). They had water and food waiting, and a ride back up to CP13. I also received news that my Dad had possibly found Brenna! Nobody in the pits wanted to confirm in case it wasn’t true, but we were almost sure. We took two vehicles back up there, an FJ40 and a Jeep, both of who are fellow racers. We hung out with the staff while we waited for the last active vehicle to pass, we even ate fire roasted hotdogs. Once cleared for recovery, we led our team to #wasabi and were able to get her upright with the FJ40 pushing on our spare tire, while we winched to the rock that (presumably) rolled us. Once upright we were able to winch her forward and pull the spark plugs. After getting the oil out we fired her up and turned her around. Trevor, Steve and Morgan all got to wheel back up Outer Limits at night with us! #wasabi drove out like it was nothing at all to spend 5 hours almost upside down pinned to a rock. Once back in pits we learned that Brenna had been found in Sledgehammer and was safe with my dad.
I was so sad that our race ended this way, and it will probably bother me for a very long time. I can say that the week spent at The Hammers was one of the most fun, challenging and educational in my life. Being in the car for hours and then stuck in the desert, really teaches you a lot about yourself. I loved my experience and wouldn’t change it for anything! Spending the time with my husband really solidified our team work and I am so happy we did as good as we did. We are already planning on trying to qualify for next year and have picked some races to do in the Ultra4 Racing series
. We are also planning on doing the Dirt Riot
mountain series. #wasabi needs a little work and we will start tearing her down this week!
Driver of Record: Hunter Sparrow
Co-Driver: Kim Sparrow
From: Pine, CO
Class: Ultra4(4400) race
Car Number: 72
Special Thank you to
Bob Brown and Marty
Morgan Orchard and Robert
• Dutchman Axles @dutchamnaxles #dutchmanmotorsports
• Rugged Radios @ruggedradios #ruggedradios
• Raceline Wheels @racelinewheels #teamraceline
• King Shocks @kingshocks #kingshocks
• BeCool Radiators @becoolinc
• Outer Limit Supply @outerlimitsupply #outerlimitsupply
• Crawlertech 4x4 @crawlertch4x4
• Hooligan Offroad @hooligan.offroad.3
• American Intense Racing @Americanintenseracing
• Barnes 4wheel drive @barnes4wd
• DC Race engines
Author: Kim Sparrow