Domination: How Loren Healy Changed the Game
The Nitto Nationals are in the books and there are months before we get our next Ultra4 fix at King of The Hammers. One of our favorite activities during this downtime is to argue with our friends about Loren Healy’s success in 2014. In addition to winning King of the Hammers, Healy is undefeated in the last four races. This is unheard of in such a brutal environment, where even the smallest mistake can end your day. Push too hard and you risk breaking the car, but hold back and you will be left behind by guys like Jason Scherer and Erik Miller. There is no disputing that Loren dominated last season (in fact, he's the most winningest driver in Ultra4 history), so the debate comes down to man and machine.
While many teams are working the kinks out of their first Ultra4 car with independent front suspension, Healy took the knowledge he gained with his last IFS car as input for designing his current race car with Armada Engineering and Jimmy’s 4x4. Unlike Jason Scherer or Shannon Campbell’s IFS cars, where the front suspension was designed independently from the rear, Armada created the front bulkhead, a-arms, subframe, and rear suspension geometry for Healy’s car as a total package. They also placed the engine in front, unlike most IFS Ultra4 cars. The packaging is similar to a Pro4 truck with the engine offset and essentially next to the driver. Is this the secret to success? Perhaps, but it is not the only difference between Healy and his competition.
A concerted effort was made to reduce weight on Healy’s new car, optimizing both power-to-weight and weight distribution for excellent acceleration and handling. That power comes from a Gearworks-sourced LS7 engine that is built by the same folks at General Motors who put together the motors for COPO Camaros. This package produces approximately 700 horsepower, but perhaps more importantly, it has proven to be rock-solid reliable with the dry sump lubrication and CBR cooling. Healy didn’t need to reinvent the wheel when it came to the rest of the drivetrain, he is using parts that have proven reliable in his past vehicles, like the Gearworks TH400 transmission, Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case, and Spidertrax Pro Series axles fitted with RCV axle shafts and Gearworks 10-inch third members.
Loren Healy won King of the Hammers in his Jimmy’s 4x4 solid axle car. The always-humble Healy credits his Co-driver/Spotter Casey Trujillo, Crew Chief Clint Ritter, and Randy Rodd and the entire crew at Jimmy’s 4×4 for much of his success. The group has been racing for long enough now that they do not make many mistakes, putting Healy in contention for victory under any conditions.
“I probably have more race miles on my old solid axle car than any other driver in one specific vehicle,” Healy shared. “We ran 14 races a season for three seasons in that car, I knew exactly what it was capable of and what the limitations were.” In addition to winning King of the Hammers, Healy drove his solid axle car to podium finishes this year at the MetalCloak Stampede and at the Badlands, proving that he is fast regardless of what he is driving. The new IFS car was not completed prior to the Badlands and Stampede races, but last year prior to winning King of the Hammer Healy explained that his plan was to race an IFS car for short course style races like the Stampede and Glen Helen, but run a solid axle car at the Hammers. His opinion may be changing though after a few races in his new IFS car…
We talked to the reigning KOH and Ultra4 champion about his opinion on man versus machine and to get a glimpse of what the future holds. “There are a combination of factors that have contributed to my success this season,” Healy confesses. “The car is definitely part of the equation though. It is the fastest thing I have ever driven.” As an indication of his confidence in the car, Healy has changed his position on racing an IFS car at King of the Hammers. “I don’t have any plans to build another solid axle car,” he shared. “The rocks at the Nitto Nationals in Reno were legit, and this car handled them without issue. It should work just as well in Johnson Valley as it did in Reno.”
Healy concedes that it is a disadvantage to have a single seat vehicle at King of the Hammers, with no co-driver to navigate or pull winch cable. In order to overcome that, he plans to spend the week prior to King of the Hammers prerunning the entire course multiple times. Healy also has another trick up his sleeve; Armada Engineering has started work on a two seat, IFS car similar to his current single seat race car, but larger. The new car will not be completed in time for King of the Hammers, and Healy concedes that it might be too large for the tight canyons of Johnson Valley anyway.
Along with new sponsor ReadyLift, Healy plans to branch out into traditional desert racing, entering the new vehicle in Class 1 in select desert races. In order to free up time for desert racing, Healy will not compete in the Ultra4 Eastern Regional Series for 2015. That leaves at least one championship available for someone else to win. Next year during the off-season we can argue about whether Loren Healy would have won the Eastern Series if he had entered. Until then, the debate continues about just what makes Healy such a dominating force in Ultra4 racing.