Persistent Evolution: Mel Wade’s KOH 2016 Recap
The premier 4400 Ultra4 race class is reserved for the most hardcore and dedicated off — road buggies on the planet. While racing in the 4400 class at King of the Hammers with a plated, street-legal vehicle might sound down-right insane, it’s something Mel Wade and his Off Road Evolution race team have been doing for years. Sure, Wade knows he’s a bit outgunned going against 4,000 — pound tube cars in his 7,000 — pound Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, but he doesn’t care. There’s more to the EVO MFG, Discount Tire, and KMC Wheels sponsored team than just winning races, but they are out there proving out off — the — shelf components.
Starting off the line in 85th position, Wade and his Australian co — pilot Garth Hannaford had a devised a game plan of running a smooth and consistent race. With the first lap made up of largely high — speed desert sections, the EVO — Lever and Double Throw Down equipped Jeep made great time.
It wasn’t until just eight miles outside of lap one that the #4451 JK had something fail inside of the front differential. Since the JK was running selectable hubs on the Dynatrac ProRock 60 front axle, Wade was able to unlock the DynaLocs and make it to his main pit in two — wheel drive.
Once in the pit, the Dynatrac support crew wasted no time and torn the entire frontend apart. Thankfully, Dynatrac had the parts Wade needed and they were able to get back in the race. But, the couple of hours in the pits was precious time lost.
Lap two proved to be smooth for the EVO race team and despite some traffic on the course, the EVO1 race Jeep was able to make up a bit of time lost.
The Hemi — powered JK pulled in to main pit at the end of lap two. Tired, but still in good spirits, the team knew they would be racing against the clock to try and make it back to the start finish line before the 10 p.m. cutoff time.
The final leg of the race was no doubt the hardest. Making it through backdoor in record time, the two — man team blasted through the darkness to Chocolate Thunder and on through some of the toughest rockcrawling the hammers has to offer. Experienced with the terrain and the JK, Wade got the rig to the start of Outer Limits just as time expired. With their heads held high and the Jeep still running great, they acknowledged their race day was done and headed back. It wasn’t the finish they were looking for, but a great effort put on by one of the only teams competing with a stock frame.