King of Hammers Desert Challenge Winner Rodrigo Ampudia
We caught up with Ampudia to get his take on being crowned one of this year’s Kings of the Hammers.
Charging through the sands and rock of the famed Johnson Valley Desert outside San Bernardino, Calif., this past weekend, Monster Energy’s Rodrigo “RodAmp!” Ampudia brought his Can-Am Maverick X3 X RC Turbo RR side-by-side ride home in the top position of the UTV Pro Stock class at the 18th annual running of the 2024 Progressive King of the Hammers, presented by Nitto and Powered by OPTIMA Batteries.
Winning the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge, presented by Monster Energy, put Ampudia in a rare position as the former SCORE Baja 1,000 champion added a prestigious King of the Hammers champion trophy to his mantle.
Ampudia scored the class-best time of 3:56:55 on the grueling, high speed laps around Johnson Valley – part of the famed Mojave Desert.
One of Monster Energy’s core off-road racers since 2007, Ampudia was in 3rd place (behind Chade Minder and Jake Versey) after the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Prologue, running a UTV Stock Pro Turbo class pre-race time of 39:48.1. But when it counted, in Saturday’s main event, Ampudia topped Versey by 2:05 (3:56:54.7 to 3:58:06.3) to win the UTV Stock Pro Turbo overall Desert Challenge title at the ‘Hammers.
We caught up with Ampudia to get his take on being crowned one of this year’s Kings of the Hammers. Here’s what he had to say.
First off, congrats from everyone at Monster Energy on your victory at King of Hammers - Toyo Tires Desert Challenge, presented by Monster Energy. What does it mean to you to win at such a major off-road event?
Thank you! I’m super excited to bring home a KOH win. Winning this race stacks up there with winning the Baja 1000. It’s one of the biggest races of the year.
That’s awesome. Talk about your preparation heading into the KOH, the vehicle you took to the race and what you did to the vehicle in order to be as competitive as possible.
We took our X3 Can-Am that was built and prepped by Ramp SxS. This is the same Can-Am we raced last year.
Looking back on your previous attempts at winning the KOH Desert Challenge, what made things different this year that allowed you to win?
Last year we unfortunately ran a little too hard during qualifying and caused some damage that cost us the race. This year I drove smarter and that was the key to winning.
Yep. As they say: “To finish 1st you have to finish, first.” Was there a certain area of the race that you can look back on as the turning point… an area of the course that allowed you to secure the race lead and, ultimately, the class victory?
We had a fun battle for the lead both laps, ultimately we made the pass stick and brought it home to the finish line in first.
How does the KOH Desert Challenge compare to other races you’ve won, such as the Baja 1,000?
The feeling of winning is always amazing. Especially when it’s an iconic race like KOH. Racing KOH is unique because everything happens in a small area at a very fast pace.
Take a moment here to mention your team. You’re a brand ambassador with Can-Am, but who tunes your UTV Pro Stock Turbo, getting it set up for KOH?
All the hard work of preparing our Can-Am is put in at the Ramp SxS shop. Suspension Development Group SDG help us tune our Fox Shox to perfection. I’d also like to recognize everyone from Can-Am that helps us make this possible is also a key to our success.
Absolutely. And given that wheels and tires are crucial to off-road racing, what companies are you working with in this area and how did those relationships help you to win the King of Hammers - Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy.
We race on Toyo Tires; it makes it extra special winning the races that our sponsors support. For wheels we run KMC. We switched over to KMC last year and it’s been amazing.
Did you just set out to race the KOH Desert Challenge, and not the Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship this year?
We only race the Desert Challenge because our Can-Ams are purposely built for racing in the desert. I’ve raced the Hammers race in the past and you definitely need a purposely built car for the rocks to be successful in that race.
That’s for sure. Lots of bad breaks in the rocks for the Monster Energy racers there. Overall, Rodrigo talk about the KOH event as a whole, the crowd that attends and how cool of a gathering place Johnson Valley is for the off-road community.
KOH is such a cool place to go race, we get to spend a week out in the desert with family and friends enjoying what we love to do.
Right on. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, and congrats again from everyone at Monster Energy. Looking ahead, what’s your competition schedule looking like this year? … Thanks, Rodrigo!
This year we will be competing the full score series in Baja, and hopefully we will get to do some smoke shows in the pits of some Monster Energy supercross races. Thanks to everyone at Monster Energy for supporting us, we love to be a part of the Monster Family. Also, our sponsors that support our program include Papas&Beer, Can-Am, Toyo Tires, KMC wheels, Baja Designs, Fox, SDG, Switch-Pros and Evolution Performance.