Chasing Dust: Behind the Scenes of Hammertown
Regarded by many as the toughest single-day race in the world, King of the Hammers has grown from a small contest of 12 racers to a week-long spectacle that attracts over 400 race teams and upwards of 60,000 spectators. Since its inception in 2007, the event owes much of its success and notoriety to the people who put in the countless hours of work before and after race week to make everything happen. But what exactly goes into erecting the fully functioning city of Hammertown, USA in the middle of the Mojave Desert that is only populated for seven days a year? Our Truck Editor, Matt Moghaddam, set out for the Means Dry Lake in Johnson Valley, California, ground-zero for KOH, one week prior to the event to get the inside scoop from the people who build Hammertown each year.
The logistics alone are startling. Hammertown is currently enclosed by 2.1 miles of fence line, and inside this boundary is a grid of electricity, water systems, plumbing services, WiFi, addresses, city streets with names, full-kitchen food vendors, VIP areas, a stage, vendor rows, and hundreds of race team campsites complete with garages and pits. This working city is erected in just 3 weeks prior to the event, and torn down in the days following the main race. Perhaps most remarkably, the entire desert is left better than it was found by the time the last load of equipment leaves the lake bed.
But all this infrastructure doesn't go up on its own. Ultra4 Racing has a staff of roughly 35 people on site from January 10th, three weeks before race week, with a core group of individuals responsible for managing the work needed to be done. This small army of people work tirelessly for weeks to ensure Hammertown is ready to take on the tens of thousands of spectators, racers, and vendors that will descend on the lake bed in the first week of February. The to-do lists are endless, but somehow, these highly organized and skilled individuals make it happen every year.
Another aspect of what keeps Hammertown running every year is the massive volunteer effort. Simon Saines, who manages all the volunteers for race week, tells us he has over 400 volunteers registered for the 2020 King of the Hammers. That's over 400 people who, out of the love for off-road racing, are devoting a week of their time to ensuring the safety and success of this monumental race. Simon mentioned that many of the volunteers he interacts with are veteran volunteers at KOH, some having even been around since the very first race! Volunteering is another great way to get your foot in the door to Ultra4 Racing, and has been the first step in the career path for many people in this industry.
As President of Ultra4 Racing, Ryan Thomas, said, "It takes an armada." The people who devote over a month of their lives to living out an RV on a dusty dry lake bed, sometimes working round the clock, to make every King of the Hammers even more memorable—these are the rear heroes. Driving Line will be on the lake bed this year, as we are each year, bringing you the stories from the racers, fans, and the people who make this the biggest and best 4x4 off-road race of the year.
Watch this week's episode of Chasing Dust on our YouTube channel to find out exactly who the key players are behind the scenes of Hammertown, and learn what their role is in building this incredible city each year.