Brad Lovell Wins the 4WP Every Man Challenge
The helicopters overhead signified that it was an official race day and the excitement of the fans and teams was tangible as the drivers lined up at the starting line. It was the day of the main race for the 4WP Every Man Challenge in the Johnson Valley Means lakebed, the home of the temporary city of Hammertown where the start/finish line is located. It had been a been a brisk 40 degrees F the last few days, but it was quickly apparent as the morning progressed that it was going to be warmer than the day before—perfect for a day of racing.
The Every Man Challenge consists of three different classes, the Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends class, Yukon Gear and Axle 4500 Modified class and the Spidertrax Offroad 4600 Stock class. The fans had plenty of action to watch with 125 total drivers (4800: 66 drivers, 4500: 30 drivers and 4600: 29 drivers). It’s one of the most beloved classes because the cars and teams are the most relatable to the average off-roader. These are the classes where most drivers start out—it’s rare that someone will jump right into the 4400 class.
This year’s course was 143 miles total, with a 77-mile first lap and a 66-mile second lap. Dave Cole, president of the King of the Hammers had a few words about the course, “It’s enough desert to separate the pretenders from the real contenders with 70-80 miles of desert racing and harder rock sections than normal.”
The Start of the Race
The first racers left Hammertown at about 8am, two-by-two, with a pair leaving every 30-seconds. Cade Rodd and Cameron Steele were the first off the line and fought for the early lead. They'd make the best of not worrying about the dust clouds from the other competitors.
Within 40 mins there were parts failures and the large rock section called Cougar Buttes started to take its toll. It’s a broad rock section where you can actually pass other drivers, but was tough for many and was clearly more difficult than it appeared. Cameron Steele was the front runner, but unfortunately for him, he was also the first to succumb to the rocks and got stuck within about 48 minutes of racing. Shortly after he got stuck, it was announced Cameron Steele’s rig broke an upper suspension link which took them out of the race for the day. Co-driver Terry Madden and Cameron were out on the course helping spot drivers for the rest of the day once they realized they weren’t going to get a replacement part. It was obvious they cared about the well-being of their fellow racers.
New Leaders and Attrition
This put Goodall out in front and physically in first with Levi Shirley not far behind. Within the first hour of racing Connor Fults went down with suspension problems and Kyle Wickham rolled upside down on Cougar Buttes which caused a jam in the rocks for the drivers behind. A few minutes later, last year’s winner Casey Gilbert, experienced an engine fire which took him out of the race.
An hour-and-a-half in, Goodall was the physical and timed leader and looked like he was racing alone. Shirley pulled away physically from the pack too and with adjusted time was in second place.
Some drivers were having trouble on the route through Cougar Butte, so the officials placed a Jeep on course to help guide the racers to the correct areas—it just happened to be near to where Cameron Steele’s car was stuck.
The First Lap: 4800 Class
The first lap weeds out the unprepared, and a good 25% don’t make it. The first finishers were Goodall, with Seth Van Dyke taking second and Levi Shirley close behind. Levi had already had a few flats to contend with, but kept close to the leaders.
With almost two hours and ten minutes elapsed, Seth Van Dyke took an early remote pit stop to get fuel so he wouldn’t have to stop for it later. All four of his Nitto Trail Grappler tires were in great shape enabling him to continue racing as other racers had to stop and swap out multiple tires before they could get back into the race. Lost time like this can make or break someone's day out here.
Brad Lovell pitted soon after, and said a few words before he continued racing, “We were hitting lots of headwinds, but we’re keeping a smart pace and I can’t wait to get to the rocks.”
After three hours of racing the wind had started to pick up and it was Goodall out front with Shirley and Van Dyke not far behind him. Seth Van Dyke was through Aftershock with constant momentum through the rocks. Sometimes it’s hard for the drivers to see where they’re going in some sections, they have to know where the vehicle is and where the tires are in relation to their surroundings. As always, the less backing up possible, the quicker the time, but it’s nearly impossible to avoid a little back-and-forth through rock sections.
The next hour was a fight for first, second and third with Goodall starting out in front enjoying the clean air. Chocolate Thunder and Jackhammer gave Shirley and Goodall some problems which allowed Seth to stay in the running and presented Brad Lovell with an opening to start competing for a podium position. At the end of the hour, the leaders had changed again, with Logan Goodall in first, Seth Van Dyke in second, Brad Lovell in third and Levi Shirley close behind them.
The Last Hour of the Race
In a tight race for the top four positions, the last hour saw the four fastest drivers duking it out all the way to the finish line through Spooners and Backdoor. On corrected time, it appeared as though Lovell was in the lead, with Van Dyke and Goodall trailing close behind. Goodall got his car stuck about 15 mins before the end of the race, which opened the door for Van Dyke and Lovell to take the physical lead.
Race Results of the 4800 Legends Class
The top four drivers really put on a show that was exciting all the way to the end. But, if a vote were taken by the officials for MVP of the race, Terry Madden would win because he spotted nearly everyone through the rocks.
1. Brad Lovell (4:53:00)
“Ten years ago we lost the race by 28-seconds, today we won by 29 seconds—I’ve been chasing those few seconds for a long time. This is my 15th KOH with my brother in the same car, and this year we pushed it harder than ever. We were cautious at the beginning, then pushed it as hard as possible at the end. When we get home, we’ve got to weld all the cracks in the chassis.”
2. Seth Van Dyke (4:53:29)
“Brad Lovell pushed me harder than ever, we were running at the ragged edge. We pushed hard, and my co-driver didn’t have to get out of the car.”
3. Levi Shirley (4:56:57)
“It was a fantastic race, but the dust was terrible. I was only running at a 60-70 percent pace because of it. I also made a couple of mistakes in the rocks—had parts hang up, and I’m not used to this solid axle set-up yet. But, I’m so proud of Lovell, Van Dyke, my co-driver Aaron, and my pit crew.”
4500 Modified Class
It was a race between some of the same names as last year, with Jimmy Jack, Matt Howell and Dan Fresh fighting for the top spots on the leaderboard in their class. Howell had an early lead with Fresh on his tail. In the end, Jack made up some serious time, and moved up the field from 10th place.
4500 Class Results
1. Dan Fresh
“It was a tough week. I raced UTV [Sunday] and fractured my wrist. I got a cast put on—but cut it off and went racing anyway. The car was great in the rocks, but it was a tough course this year.”
2. Jimmy Jack
I’m stoked, but tired and really happy. It was rough out there and extremely dusty, visibility was an issue. But this car has done well, with three podiums in three years!”
3. Matt Howell
“It was a very challenging race, but very fun. I’m extremely pleased to podium, especially when finishing is such a great accomplishment.”
4600 Class: The Fight to Beat the Cut-Off Time
With a host of severe restrictions that are necessary if the class is called “stock,” the 4600 class is easily the most challenging in Ultra4 racing. Thirty-five inch tires are the max size, with restricted shock options, and strict body modifications are what keep this class more relatable and accessible to the aspiring off-road racer. There was a good mix of Jeep Wranglers and Jeep Grand Cherokees, Toyota trucks—but this year saw something a little different—a Suzuki Samurai piloted by Amber Turner. The strategy at this level is much different than the other classes, with competitors often waiting for their friends to help them through some of the challenging rock sections. Not as fast paced as 4800, this race took about twice the time, with third place crossing the finish line just five minutes before the cut-off time and taking roughly 8 hours for the top contenders to finish.
4600 Class Results
1. Jesse Haines
“Diesel powered Jeep was a big advantage, with almost no maintenance on the car. It's a little diesel, with only 125hp 250lbs.-ft. of torque. With 7:88 gears the top speed is about 58mph. We've done a lot of work to tune the leaf springs, and the tune was okay. Fuel consumption was great with the little motor, awfully efficient by racing standards. One of the toughest parts was the traffic jam on Chocolate Thunder, we ended up rolling—jacked the car up enough and pushed it back up right, then we got out of there fairly quick.”
2. Jon Schaefer
“The rock sections were absolutely brutal. Then we had some overheating issues. I was running 280-degrees F for like 40 minutes before we figured out the problem. So, if anyone needs a low mileage 3.6L motor—I’m selling one, cheap!”
3. Josh Atteberry
“The car got like one mile per gallon, but we pushed on to make it across the finish line just before the cut-off. Why the rooftop tent, you ask? Well, obviously for extreme overlanding! It might have come in handy today because we got stuck for awhile at Chocolate Thunder, and we were getting close to staying the night.”
|2||Seth Van Dyke||4838|
|7||Cody St Clair||4561|