Johnson Valley, CA – BJ Baldwin has plenty to be proud of in his first attempt at rock racing. On a King of the Hammers, (KOH) course that was designed to create high attrition, only 27 out of 129 finished, he and co-rider Jake Yeoman placed a respectable 44th after battling the rocks and ruts for over eight hours.
With support from Monster Energy, Toyo Tires, Rigid Industries, Method Race Wheels, King Shocks, Lucas Oil, Hoonigan, Trent Fabrication, Trail-Gear, Yukon Gear & Axle and MJ motorsports, BJ had mounted a serious effort to compete for the crown. He took full advantage of his limited practice time on the brutally tough “Hammers” trails in Johnson Valley, California, qualifying 29th out of 100 in an unfamiliar car that is vastly different from the Monster Energy Trophy Trucks he has taken to numerous championships. His Trent Fab built car is four wheel drive with a huge transfer case to split the engine power to the massive straight axles front and rear. To provide adequate ground clearance, it has a high center of gravity and to articulate in the rocks, long shocks with soft springs. The car packs a long list of heavy-duty parts into the smallest package possible; driver comfort comes secondary.
“The ergonomics were not the best for me,” said BJ, “The car handles very differently than anything I’ve driven in the past. It takes some getting used to; purposely driving over and on top of huge rocks. The sound of metal scraping and slamming against granite boulders seems so wrong but that’s what the car is built to do. My Toyo Tires hook up in the rocks so you just have to trust your co-rider when he points you over stuff that looks impassible. My co-rider Jake has rock skills that are as good as my desert skills, I can’t say enough about Jake, Dave Schneider and the Trent Fab crew for teaching me so much in such a short amount of time.”
With a solid starting position and a long desert section on the first of three laps, BJ used his desert prowess and his King shocks to pass 15 or more cars in just a few miles at the start of lap one. The weight of the heavy-duty parts wreaks havoc sometimes, as was the case with BJ. Pounding through the desert section broke the bolts holding a rear drive axle to the hub. The axle then broke causing them to do some winching in the rock sections; three wheel drive is not enough to get over the gatekeeper at Chocolate Thunder or the loose rocks on Wrecking Ball. They eventually got a new axle in and welded the flange to the hub. On lap two, the driveshaft yoke grenaded and they didn’t have a spare. KOH has a rule, no outside assistance. BJ had to run almost 5 miles from the base of Chocolate Thunder to the pits in Hammer town to retrieve a driveline yolk. After fueling up on a banana, some water and Girl Scout Cookies, BJ ran back to the car so repairs could be made. BJ admits; the Girl Scout Cookies enhanced his performance.
“We were back racing with a new yoke and looked forward to finishing the last lap but the ring and pinion failed from all the dirt that got in when the axle broke,” said BJ, “I had a great car but in the end we were taken out by a handful of bolts. I’m disappointed that we didn’t finish but proud of what we accomplished. I will be taking a few trips with Jake and Dave this year to get some more experience in the rocks; I can’t wait to come back next year to finish what we started.”
Photography By: Art Eugenio
Get Some Photo – www.getsomephoto.com
SAVE THE HAMMERS NOW!
The Johnson Valley OHV area, which is home to a series of off-road trails known as The Hammers, is currently at risk due to the proposed expansion of the 29 Palms Marine Base. 29 Palms is the largest Marine base in the world and at 930 sq. miles which is about the size of the state of Rhode Island. The Marines proposed expansion would include acquiring an additional 250 sq. miles which is the land equivalent to acquiring the country of Singapore. Some of the land for this expansion will be taken from the Johnson Valley OHV area. This expansion would mean the permanent loss of half of the California desert available to the public. Today is the last day so please take a few minutes to sign the petition at http://petitions.whitehouse.gov or go to www.savethehammers.org for more information.