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King of the Hammers Desert Invitational: Race Preview

Images via King of the Hammers

Hammertown is officially open, and racers are getting ready to make the most of it at the 2022 edition of King of the Hammers in Johnson Valley, California. The action kicks off this weekend with two full days of racing in the Toyo Tires Desert Invitational, one of the newest races at the festival of all things off-road and rock crawling, and its largest list of competing classes yet.

The Desert Invitational poses one of the most unique challenges in desert racing every year. This year marks the third edition of the event, which will kick off with a 31-mile prologue stage to set the start order for each class and three laps through the desert on an 84-mile course. This year’s action splits off into two days, with a majority of classes running on Saturday and the Unlimited trucks and buggies—plus the spec-engine trucks of the T2 class—closing out the weekend on Sunday.

T B T Ryan Del Ponte

Saturday features a full slate of limited buggies and numerous classes, expanding from the B2 vs. B3 Grudge Match that we set up last year as a fight between Class 10 and UTV racers. Wheeler Morgan won the 2021 edition as Class 10 vehicles swept the top five positions, while KOH veteran Kyle Chaney took down Phil Blurton for top honors in the UTV divisions. This year’s Saturday show sees the addition of Class 5 and TrophyLite, as well as increased segmenting between the professional and stock UTVs, including desert prototypes for Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Wayne Matlock.

Sunday, meanwhile, marks the return of the biggest names and vehicles in desert racing to the stage, headlined by last year’s T1 class podium of Bryce Menzies, Cameron Steele, and Kyle Jergensen. Dustin Grabowski will return to defend his T2 victory, but alongside many of last year’s top finishers, he’ll also have to face off with defending B1 champion Ray Griffith in the division. That helps to establish Casey Currie, last year’s B1 division runner-up, as one of the buggy favorites.

T B T Ryan Del Ponte

In addition to the Desert Invitational action, Saturday night sees the Baja Jerky Class 11 Shootout running on the KOH short course. More than 20 racers, including off-road and KOH royalty like Shannon Campbell and Larry Roeseler, will line up to do battle in their Baja Bugs.

Prologue action in the King of the Hammers Toyo Tires Desert Invitational kicks off at 8AM each day, with the races themselves following at 10AM. The Baja Jerky Class 11 Shootout will start at 6PM on Saturday. Live coverage of the event can be seen at https://ultra4racing.com/ultra4-racing-live. Following completion of the Toyo Tires Desert Invitational, the attention turns to qualifying and racing for the remaining KOH events, culminating in the Nitto Race of Kings for the 4400 class on Saturday, February 5.

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.

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