February 5, 2022 (Johnson Valley, CA)- The 4WP Every Man Challenge (EMC) consists of four distinct classes but only one overall winner. For years, drivers in the Yukon Gear and Axle Modified Class (4500) and Branik Motorsports Legends Class (4800) have battled for the overall win. Dan Fresh has traditionally led the charge in the Modified Class, winning overall in 2018 and finishing first in 4500 the past two years but being bested by drivers from the Legends Class. This year he piloted a Bomber Fabrication buggy in the Legends Class and regained his title of overall winner of the EMC race. “We were ready for this race quite honestly,” Fresh confessed at the finish line. “Mike Johnson and the whole crew have been putting in late nights for the last few weeks to get us here.”
Even with different vehicle specifications, the Branik Motorsports Legends and Yukon Gear and Axle Modified vehicles are closely matched in capabilities and battle each year for the overall win. Legends vehicles must use a single shock per corner, a front mounted engine, and have two seats. Modified vehicles are allowed two shocks per corner but must retain mechanical steering rather than the full hydraulic steering that is common in the Legends Class. Both classes compete on 37-inch DOT approved tires. The Spidertrax Stock Class is even more restrictive, allowing for minimal modifications beyond the addition of safety equipment and running through the daunting course on only 35-inch-tall DOT approved tires.
Toby Stacy came in second in the 4800 Class (and overall) in his very first attempt racing in King of the Hammers. Stacy purchased a well sorted out Trent Fab buggy from Brett Harrell and let his skills behind the wheel take care of the rest. “I hadn’t even seen Sledgehammer before today,” Stacy confessed at the finish line. “I’ve been wheeling a long time, I’ve been rockcrawling a long time, and finally I went over one hundred in the desert.” Last year’s winner Chayse Caprara rounded out the podium in his Bomber Fabrication car. After rolling in qualifying, Caprara had to start in the back of the pack. He passed 102 competitors to threaten for the overall win on corrected time, but finished two minutes behind Stacy and 32 minutes behind Fresh on corrected time. Tomorrow Caprara will race in the Nitto Race of Kings Powered by OPTIMA Batteries in the Bomber Fabrication buggy that Randy Slawson used to win last year’s King of the Hammers.
In the Yukon Axle and Gear 4500 Class, longtime racer John Matthews got his first victory at King of the Hammers. “This is our sixth KOH, and the eleventh year this Jeep has raced,” Matthews shared. Last year he finished 8th in class and 28th overall, and in 2020 he finished 5th in class and 15th overall. Joe Gatlin finished second in 4500 in his first entry in the Every Man Challenge. “I have been coming here for years, but this is my first time behind the wheel,” Gatlin explained. “All we wanted to do was finish, getting on the podium is a bonus.” Third place went to Kenneth Goodall, who led the class for much of the race, but tire issues in Wrecking Ball allowed Matthews and Gatlin get by him and cost valuable time.
The Spidertrax Stock Class (4600) was dominated by Ford, with Broncos sweeping the podium. Team Fun Haver took the class win and actually beat all the, with current Ultra4 Racing champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. driving the first lap through the desert and two-time KOH winner Loren Healy driving the second lap through the rocks. “Originally Vaughn and I planned to co-drive for each other but neither of us like to be in the passenger seat!” Healy joked at the finish line. “I’m so proud of this whole team, Ford Performance, Team Fun Haver, it is like a family,” Gittin added. Brad and Roger Lovell had qualified first in the 4600 class, but a punctured turbo hose early in the race cost them the lead on lap one. “We didn’t give up, we just fought our way back up to the front,” Brad Lovell exclaimed. Bailey Cole and Jason Scherer rounded out the podium in 4600 to complete the Bronco podium sweep. “We had a plan and we executed it perfectly,” Cole revealed after the race. “We just used the Bronco’s GOAT mode to get through whatever was in front of us.”
Kyle Seggelin was the only entry in the Dana-Spicer Holley EFI EV Class. While he wasn’t able to reach the finish line within the time limit, he is pioneering the future of electric-powered Ultra4 cars. Starting with Bailey Cole’s proven 4600 Class 4Runner as a platform, Seggelin added the motor and batteries from a Nissan Leaf to repower the 4Runner for the Every Man Challenge. The electric motor of the Leaf produced 107 horsepower and 187 ft-lbs of torque, comparable to the original 22RE engine. The Leaf motor also has an output shaft, allowing it to be mated to the factory Toyota transmission. When asked what advice he had for other racers aspiring to compete in the EV Class he said “Go for it! It’s not as hard as you think. It’s nuts and bolts make it happen.” Seggelin will be competing in the new Ultra4 Racing EV Spec class with the first race taking place in July 2022.
The punishing 151-mile course consisted of whooped out roads and high-speed lakebeds on the first lap, and 18 boulder strewn canyons on the second lap. Only 34 of the 135 vehicles entries reached the finish line within the ten-hour time limit on the most challenging EMC course to date.