With nearly 60 race teams vying for the win in the 2016 Polaris UTV King of the Hammers, it was Blake Van De Loo of Phoenix, Arizona, who came away with the victory, crossing the finish line well ahead of the rest of the field.
Last year was Van De Loo’s first race behind the wheel and he, like practically the entire field other than the three official finishers, did not complete the race. This year, however, the team came back with a better game plan – and far more durable axles to handle the rocks, thanks to RCV.
After many racers felt last year’s course was far too difficult, this year’s course was toned down a bit, with some of the toughest sections being downhills instead of uphill climbs. The evidence can also be seen in the times, with Van de Loo’s unofficial time being 4 hours, 22 minutes, 55 seconds, which is nearly two hours faster than Mitch Guthrie’s time of 6:20:22 last year.
“Quite a bit easier,” Van de Loo said of this year’s course. “We went down a lot of the hard rock trails instead of up. We only threw a winch cable once.”
The team also noted that starting near the front of the pack (the team came off the line seventh) helped stay out of the dust and have clear air in the desert. When it came to the rocks, the upgrades in the axle department made a huge impact.
“Last year we broke quite a few axles,” he said. “This year we had no breaks at all – the RCV axles came through!”
Finishing nearly 30 minutes behind Van de Loo is Branden Sims of Prescott Valley, Arizona. Whereas Van de Loo mentioned the course was on the edge of being too easy, Sims spoke highly of the course.
““This is definitely the best course I’ve ran,” Sims said. “I love the desert and this was definitely fast.”
Finishing in third place was Chad Hughes in the #1295, with a time of 5:05:54. Fourth place went to Dean Bulloch with a time of 5:11:46, and multi-KOH winner Mitch Guthrie recovered from a broken rod end earlier in the race to finish in fifth with a time of 5:14:21. Finishing just outside of the top five, and proving he can race anything, is off-road race veteran Rob MacCachren with a time of 5:21:35.
Prior to the race, Arctic Cat made headlines when it announced a five-team crew of Wildcat Xs that would tackle the UTV King of the Hammers. Fourth-place finisher Bulloch (on a Wildcat Sport) is one of three Arctic Cat racers racers to finish in the top 12, as off-road racer Sheldon Creed finished seventh and veteran Robby Gordon finished in 12th, both while piloting a Wildcat X. Gordon and Creed were near the front of the pack for a good chunk of the race, but while both are well versed short course and desert racers they struggled at times in the rocks. Gordon actually noted after the race his lack of rock experience, but he said he loved the race and was pleased he finished while testing new parts for Arctic Cat.
“We’re happy with what we did with Arctic Cat,” Gordon said. “We wanted to test out some new parts, so we’re just really happy the car survived.”
Gordon ran into trouble on Wrecking Ball while running in the top five, and it hurt his chances at the win.
“I just got stuck going down the waterfall there, and we should’ve gone around the other side,” he said. “We actually broke our winch at that point.”
Even with the mistake, Gordon was happy with the team’s effort and his machine, noting, “Didn’t have any mechanicals – just a driver mistake that got us wedged in a hole.”
Racers continue to cross the finish line in Hammertown for the 2016 Polaris UTV King of the Hammers. For up-to-the-minute coverage, view our live coverage feed here.
Official Results – 2016 Polaris UTV King of the Hammers
1. Blake Van de Loo – 4:22:55
2. Branden Sims – 4:55:21
3. Chad Hughes – 5:05:54
4. Dean Bulloch – 5:11:44
5. Mitch Guthrie – 5:14:19
6. Rob MacCachren – 5:21:33
7. Jason Weller – 5:30:52
8. Evan Engelhardy – 5:36:55
9. Erik Miller – 5:37:23
10. Richard Bronsema – 5:43:18
11. Ross Pilgreen – 6:26:54
12. Brian King – 6:29:19
13. Tyler Greeves – 6:34:36
14. Austin Massingill – 7:01:54
15. Anthony Yount – 7:22:44
16. Brent Zimmerman – 7:22:45
17. Wesley Gryner – 7:37:58
18. Sheldon Creed – 7:42:51*
19. Jesse Johnson – 7:47:12
20. Brian Fisher – 7:54:40
21. Robby Gordon – 8:18:59*
*Both Creed and Gordon were assessed 135-minute time penalties for missing part of the course.