Here in the States it doesn’t get any bigger for the off-road motorsports community than the annual running of the ULTRA4 Progressive King of the Hammers, powered by Optima Batteries (KOH) event in the desert and up the mountain sides of Johnson Valley near San Bernardino, Calif. The glowing green desert beacon of energy drinks, the M-claw logo, will again be well represented in the field of competitors as no less than 23 Monster Energy-backed competitors, with marquee off-road names like the Campbells, Deegan, the Greaves’, Steele, Gittin Jr., Currie and the Herbsts, are lining up and ready to mash the accelerator for one of the wildest rides in motorsports, February 2-11.
Opening with Cameron Steele, the off-road industry great will again be doing the heavy lifting for Monster Energy at KOH. Along with assisting with announcer’s duties, Steele will contest no less than five (5) classes, and is considering a sixth class, over the course of ten days, earning him the ubiquitous title “Man of” Steele at this KOH.
“Some say I’m crazy. And some say I’m an idiot. But the truth is I’m just passionate about off-road dust making,” said Steele, who says he’s favored to podium in all the classes, sans the 40-plus Pro Moto class. “Chance of winning 40-plus Pro Moto? Slim (laughter). Moto is in my DNA, and I think KOH is one of the greatest hard enduro events in the world.” Steele will contest the moto class on a Gas Gas 300 built by JCR Speed Shop.
Last year Monster Energy’s Vaughn Gittin Jr., best known in the drifting competition field, locked down the victory in KOH’s popular “Every Man Challenge” race, putting his Ford Bronco up top over 4th place Steele. The historic win for the Ford Bronco program was a testament to teamwork, according to Gittin Jr. “This is a gnarly sport, and it’s won and lost in the shop,” he said from the podium. “The race did not get won without this entire team. … We further developed the Ford Bronco for people who are going to race it.”
Added, Steele, in the Trent Fabrication buggy, who raced a portion of the Every Man Challenge with a wrench in one hand, so he could tighten his steering wheel connection (which kept coming loose). “I think if we tried to drive another mile we’d have destroyed the vehicle.”
Other Monster Energy-backed champions returning from last year’s ’22 KOH includes: Brian Deegan (UTV Shoot/Stock Turbo class), Steele (Desert Challenge LTD/TL class), and CJ Greaves (UTV Open/Open class).
Monster Energy’s lineup for the 2023 King of the Hammers
Burroughs UTV (Desert class), Deegan (Rock class), Rodrigo Ampudia (Desert), Aaron and Alan Ampudia (Desert), Price (Desert), Jones (Desert & Rock), Phil Blurton (Desert & Rock), Cameron Steele (Desert & Rock), Casey Currie (Desert), Johnny Greaves (Rock), CJ Greaves (Rock), Marc Burnett (Rock)
Trophy Truck T1
Tim Herbst, Casey Currie
Spec Truck T2
Terrible Herbst, Cameron Steele
4400 Rock Race
Shannon Campbell, Wayland Campbell, Bailey Campbell, Vaughn Gittin Jr., Loren Healey, Casey Currie, Cameron Steele, CJ Greaves, Johnny Greaves
Vaughn Gittin Jr., Loren Healy
Pro 2 Short Course
Finally, a big Monster Energy shout-out to the region’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to which some 81,000 acres of Johnson Valley’s OHV Recreation Area will be closed for public use during the ten day KOH event, which draws both competitors and spectators – estimated at more than 100,000 - from all over the U.S. Huge undertaking and excellent seeing government and the off-road community working together to make this great event happen.
How to watch KOH
Check out all of the 2023 Progressive King of the Hammers, powered by Optima Batteries, action on the event’s official YouTube channel.