King of the Hill

Bru­tal rock rac­ing is like noth­ing you’ve ever seen before.

4 x 4 Australia - - Event - WORDS AND PHO­TOS DANIEL EVERETT

WHAT do you get when you cross the in­fa­mous Baja 1000 desert race with Tuff Truck-style rock crawl­ing, and then throw in a few dozen pur­pose­built race cars with miles of sus­pen­sion travel and enough power to make a V8 su­per­car look like a se­date daily driver?

For any­one who wasn’t stand­ing track­side at Mil­bro­dale, NSW, for the now an­nual Tough Dog King of the Hunter event the an­swer is Ul­tra4, a new breed of 4x4 mo­tor­sport that can only be summed up as rock rac­ing.

It’s a desert race through a moun­tain range full of boul­ders that can swallow 40-inch tyres, and it all takes place at full throt­tle with 450kw bug­gies snap­ping at your heels ready to jump on any weak­ness you show.

It’s a race where skill goes hand in hand with luck – a day of per­fect lines and vi­sion-blur­ring pace can all fall apart with the fail­ure of a $20 part.

Orig­i­nat­ing in Cal­i­for­nia’s John­son Val­ley, plans sketched out on a nap­kin saw a group of 13 mates do a loop through the desert and up through the rocks. A case of beer was on of­fer for the win­ner.

Nine years later, the orig­i­nal King of the Ham­mer event has grown from 13 mates to 400 teams, with tens of thou­sands of fans lin­ing the course. Now it’s come to Aus­tralia, where it’s called the King of the Hunter.

Held at Mil­bro­dale, the home of Tuff Truck, the Tough Dog King of the Hunter event is in its sec­ond year and al­ready boasts 21 com­peti­tors across three classes. The en­try -level UTV class is dom­i­nated by Po­laris RZR side-by-sides with the oc­ca­sional Can-am Mav­er­ick thrown in for good mea­sure.

The Tt/winch class is a catch-all, from old 40 Series Landcruiser rock crawlers and cob­bled-to­gether GQ Pa­trols right through to pur­pose-built high-speed ma­chines with coilovers and by­pass shocks; although, en­gine size is lim­ited.

Then you have the big boys, the un­lim­ited Ul­tra4 class. It’s a no-holds-barred cat­e­gory where en­gines push 1000hp (745kw) and com­peti­tors clear the 40-me­tre table­top jump with ease.

The three-day event kicks off with qual­i­fy­ing on Fri­day, with rac­ing tak­ing place through­out Satur­day and Sun­day. De­spite the big-dol­lar rigs and pro­fes­sional teams the event is still in its in­fancy, so it feels like a grass­roots event – you’re able to stroll through the pad­docks and chat to com­peti­tors as they make fi­nal prepa­ra­tions for the tough­est 4x4 race in the coun­try.

Track­side camp­ing pro­vides a strange con­trast. On one side of a dirt track you’ve got 1000hp race cars fly­ing through the air at full noise; on the other is a young fam­ily sit­ting un­der an awning with a camp­fire crack­ling away as they make lunch and watch the ac­tion.

The event is like noth­ing you’ve ever seen before, and if the Amer­i­can ver­sion is any­thing to go by, it will con­tinue grow­ing from strength to strength.

If you’re af­ter the glitz and glam­our of high-end mo­tor­sport, then steer clear. How­ever, if a week­end of up-close side-by-side rac­ing with some of the most ad­vanced race cars in the coun­try gets your blood flow­ing, then the Tough Dog King of the Hunter is one week­end you don’t want to miss.

The ta­ble top was a crowd favourite.

The OPW Ul­tra 4 was let down by parts fail­ure.

A snapped CV threw JKS onto their side.

Jay­den and Emma of JKS Mo­tor­sport.

MRG Mo­tor­sport won the fi­nal race.

Grem­lin Rac­ing’s wildly mod­i­fied FJ40.

Mal Van Ys­seldyk af­ter a race-end­ing break­age.

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