Desert Turtle Racing KOH 2018 Race Recap

Desert Turtle Racing KOH 2018 Race Recap

KOH 2018 Race Week:
First and foremost, we were stoked to be setting up our pits in the Lasernut Laser Town hanger. We arrived at Laser Town and got the Turtle set up in the hanger and set up all our camp stuff. We did a little last minute shock tuning on the Rock Krawler shocks to get them dialed in for race day, then headed over to get registered for the race. Monday was our qualifying day and in practice we discovered that the motor was running not so peppy. We learned that we had to shift to 4-Lo just to get up the hill climb and then shift back into 4-Hi to finish the lap. It hurt our qualifying times a bit but we were still able to get an 11th in class start for Thursday’s race. We also discovered that we had a melted coil pack and spark plug that were causing the engine to run poorly. We were able to get in a run around Lap 1 of the KOH course and mark down some trouble spots on GPS as well as set up our lines to get through the new “Notches” area that Ultra4 added to the course this year. We were feeling pretty good about the course of Lap 1 and the car was running well. We headed out for a pre-run of Lap 2 and got through a couple trails but unfortunately cracked the oil pan on a couple big hits and that caused us to call the pre-running extremely short. A big part of our pit support this year was provided by Dust Junkies Racing and they just so happened to be near where we broke down and gave us a helping hand to get back to Laser Town. We spent the rest of our pre-running time hunting down an oil pan and making repairs to the rig and studying the course map.


KOH 2018 EMC Race Day:
Let’s just start with, the green flag dropped and we were off and running! Darin was behind the wheel and ready to attack the desert lap. The first few miles had us on edge, knowing that race nerves can cause you to overdrive the rig and/or potentially suffer flats. As we clicked off the early miles we passed many rigs that had suffered exactly that, and a couple others with some quick driving decisions. We were able to maintain a good pace and cruise through unscathed. As we passed by RM12 we felt the rig was doing well. We radioed to Dust Junkies at Remote Pit 1 that we didn’t need a tire change and opted pass through without a stop. They responded with “Well done. We’ll catch you on the flip side at RM48”. We waved on the way by the pits and were feeling great about the rig. We kept clicking off the miles, passing other racers along the way. As we arrived at “The Notches” a little ways past RM24 we followed a couple other rigs into the banner area. Again, we passed a few others that were floundering in the rocks not knowing where to go. We stuck to our pre-planned route and managed to maneuver around a couple more. As we exited, we were on the tail of a 4800 rig and we decided to go for the pass in a whooped-out section to the drivers left. We made the pass, but we also went for a good ride when the front end got bucked pretty high, and we were reminded that we needed to tone it back.


We got back on our pace as we rounded the half-way point at RM32, and we continued carrying a good pace, picking our way through the tight desert section before reaching RM47, where we again needed to radio to the Dust Junkies at Remote Pit 1 what our plans were. We chatted for a bit about how the rig was doing, we were not hearing any strange sounds, and we again didn’t need to stop for a tire change. We hit the pit zone and again gave the big thumbs up as we passed by. Heading out crossing the base line we knew the speeds were going to pick up as we rounded the big bend at RM52. Around RM54 we had a close encounter with a bird — this bird was about 20 feet off the deck and clocking us for speed about 50 feet off the front passenger corner of the rig. At least it seemed that close. So we mashed the gas to pick up the pace and see what they would do. We gave them the applause and enjoyed the camera man hanging off the side of the helicopter. Let’s hope it makes the cut into some footage somewhere.


We reached the intersection at the baseline exit and headed out across the dry, dusty Melville lakebed. At times we couldn’t see much more than a few feet in front of us. Picking our way up into the top of Resolution, preparing for our drop down it and Backdoor, we knew we had just a couple more miles before we were back to Main. We had a bit of a close call at Backdoor — we got in a little bit of a hurry to prevent another rig from passing us and did a great nose pose with the rear tires straight up in the air. We hit the gas to prevent the roll-over and hit the rear bumper hard on the rock wall behind us… BUT we were down and all four wheels and the rig was still moving. We called in to pits that we were down but took a hard hit and would need to look the rig over really well. We made the last of the little climbs before hitting the short course and the Main Pits. At this point we were pretty stoked Darin just had a VERY clean run on Lap 1 and suffered ZERO flats with our Falken tires. We had a feeling that we were sitting in a pretty good position and it was time to change drivers.

And so the race continues… Lap 2 — Randall is now in the driver’s seat and ready to take on the rock sections. Before we got there, we had to run through the first 8 miles of the Lap 1 again, and then around the desert for another 9 miles before reaching Remote Pit 2A. Again, we kept a descent pace intent on not overdriving the rig. As we reached Remote Pit 2A the rig was feeling pretty good and we called in to let them know that we would just be passing by. We headed into the first rock trail, Boulder Dash, and made pretty quick work of it. We headed down Upper Big Johnson and continued across the valley and around to the bottom of Wrecking Ball. While we were in Wrecking Ball we had a few difficulties leading up to the waterfall but cruised right up the bypass line and continued on. At RM85 we headed over to Fissure Mountain to run across the top of the range and down to Sledgehammer. Another new thing for the Ultra4 race this year was the addition of two trails at RM90, Idle Issues and Her Problem, two trails that I did not get to pre-run nor even see. As we approached the trail we saw the trail markers but the terrain looked untraveled and there were no obvious lines. There was no stopping us on this trail we picked it apart, as if we were cutting a new trail. We had a little trouble getting through Chocolate Thunder but were able to keep our cool and get back on track.

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Once we got over into Jack North we felt something strange in the steering and decided we should stop and take a look. What we discovered was the mount on the axle for the Hydro Assist Ram has been torn off and the Ram was just hanging there cycling left and right. We also discovered that all of the drive flange bolts on the rear axle (BOTH SIDES!) had backed out and we were leaking a ton of gear oil. We tightened up the flange bolts, removed the hydro-ram and capped the hydro lines so we could continue the race. We wheeled up to the crux of Jack North and, like a replay of last year, Darin got out and spotted the rigs through and then got us through and we headed for Jack Hammer. The problem with not having Hydro Assist is that every rock the tires come in contact with will jolt the tires one way or another and that makes it very difficult to steer and stay on the line that you need to get over the rocks. Coming down Jack Hammer we made sure to plan way ahead and keep the car on the right line. Heading up the sand hills at RM93 was pretty fun with the new motor screaming as we made our way. We got around to Hells Gate and continued to struggle with the ability to steer and stay on the right line. Thankfully we had a new ZEON 10 winch from Warn on the rig to get us quickly un-stuck when necessary.

We cruised down Devils Slide and headed over into Sunbonnet Pass. We came upon a few other rigs in the trail and made passes when we could but also got stuck a few times, and again had to use the winch to get unstuck. Somewhere in Sunbonnet we got lodged between two big rocks and had to use our jack to get out, which cost us a significant amount of time. At that point we also discovered that we had cracked the oil pan again and it is was dripping. We took some time to look at the leak and see if we could spot the crack. We debated continuing the race with the leak but the concern was, if we cracked the oil pan even worse, we could damage the motor and possibly be stuck in a trail until the race is over. We agreed that we would make our way out of Sunbonnet and then reassess the condition of the rig. It’s always a hard decision to make but we had to make it. We decided to make our way to the stock bypass split at RM100 and call the race. We didn’t want to risk severe damage to the motor and didn’t want a late-night team recovery after the race. We got in touch with our pit crew at Remote Pit 2B and had them relay to Race Ops that we were out of the race at RM100.

We finished our race as the 1st place DNF, putting us officially in 4th place by progression. Yes, you read that right — There were only three 4500 class rigs that finished the race, and only another nine rigs in the 4800 class. This race was a difficult one — Not because of the number of rock trails or a difficult desert lap, but because Mother Nature has not rained on the Hammer trails in some time, and that caused the dirt to be very dusty and the rocks to be covered in dust, and some holes to be extra deep.


We would like to give a special thanks to several sponsors – To Off Road Development for providing the shop space for us to get ready for KOH. To Sucuri Security for stepping on board to support the team this year. To Warn for going above and beyond standard customer service to solve our winching issues. To Dust Junkies Racing for providing pit space and pit support at the race. To Lasernut for providing us space in the Laser Town Hanger at KOH. To Rock Krawler for their continued support in our race program. To Falken for providing ZERO flats this year on the Wildpeak M/T tires. And to our DTR team… Without them we would not be able to do what we do. We are a team that is more like a family and we are all in it together. Even though we did not finish, we did not lose. We come away smarter and stronger. We are still a young team and we continue to learn at every race.

Thanks to all of our sponsors for your continued support: Rock Krawler Suspension | Falken Tire | Sucuri Security | Axial Racing | Poison Spyder Customs | Raceline Wheels | DJ Safety | Fuel Safe | Rugged Radios | J. E. Reel | Rugged Routes | Lasernut | Currie Enterprises | Magnaflow | CTM Racing | sPOD | Artec Industries | PRP Seats | Luxwurx | Warn | Sharq Skinz | DGP Motion Media | Factor55 | 212 Performance Gloves | Off Road Development | Pacific Advisors | SoCal Services | Beachview Insurance | Villa Landscape Products | SoCal Land Maintenance | EctoVentures

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ULTRA4 Racing tackles the FALLON 250

ULTRA4 @ VORRA Fallon 250

Words and photos: Michael Plunkett
August 29 – 30th, 2015
Fallon, Nevada

When it comes to ULTRA4 racing, anyone that has been around rock racing understands how versatile these machines are. They are designed to reach up to 130mph across the desert, yet capable of crawling rock sections the size of school buses. In order to be able to withstand the punishment in the rocks and cross the desert at speeds of over 100mph, they must be engineered and designed with the toughest components on the market. ULTRA4 Racing got its start in 2008 at an event that is now known worldwide as King of the Hammers, or KOH for short. They since have started a west and east coast series of races and have ventured internationally to the likes of France, Italy, the UK, and even Portugal. In order to keep up with this rapidly growing sport of rock racing, ULTRA4 is constantly looking for fan friendly venues.
They have rapidly caught the eye of the desert racers by entering races such as Best in the Deserts Series – Vegas to Reno race, The Parker 425, and The Bluewater Challenge. On the other side of the desert racing spectrum, Currie Enterprises’ Casey Currie managed to take his rock racing ULTRA4 4400 buggy down to the BAJA 500 and finished that brutal race within the Trophy Truck class this year!

So when it came to choosing another course to round out the western series this year, choosing to venture together with the VORRA Series at the Fallon 250 seemed to be a legitimate match for Dave Cole’s ULTRA4 Series. Teams were excited with the thought of a desert race for the simple reason of getting more of an opportunity to stretch their legs a little and see if they can manage to conquer a desert style race course.

Teams started arriving Thursday afternoon in order to get out to see and pre-run the course. Some chose to show up Friday and venture out in the early afternoon and into the night to get used to running in the dark. To best fit the two series together, JT Taylor and VORRA president, Wes Harbor, went right to work sorting the classes and when each class would start.

During the drivers meeting Friday evening, the drivers from each series would get the chance to meet each other as well as see the order of which they were to start. It was also stated in the drivers meeting that this would be their largest race to date! Wes explained the various different rules of conduct to the ULTRA4 drivers so there would be no confusion on race day. As it was to turn out our lower classes sort of speak from the ULTRA4 4500, 4600, 4700, 4800 and UTV’s would run during the day starting at 6am with the variety of classes from the VORRA series varying from UTV to class 1 with a cutoff time of 1:30pm. That reserved the night racing to the ULTRA4 4400 class only!

It was a beautiful Friday night in the desert with very little breeze whatsoever which only meant one thing for the drivers that had to leave the line early the next day…DUST was going to be miserable!! True to that thought as the early classes left the line and off into the desert, I was already struggling to get clear photos even at the lineup. Without a ride to get around in, I was fortunate when I ran into Phil Kaos, another desert race photographer, and he offered to let me ride with him. We finish up at the start line and quickly headed out to check point one to see what we could find. Never having shot or seen this course before I was now at the mercy of Phil. He got us to pit one and we ventured off trying to see through all the dust, let alone get a picture of anything…Yes, it was dusty!! We stayed there to see the leaders come back through on the second lap and cover the racers we needed, then loaded up to head to Pit 2. Immediately after getting on our way, Phil’s truck started missing and running really rough…fortunately Phil being handy as he is, went right to work figuring out how to get us moving again.

After a short while on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere we were on the move again.

We arrived at Pit 2 not really knowing their lap times well enough to figure out what lap everyone was on by now? So we hung out quite a while there until we were satisfied with what we got for pictures and figured we better get moving back to the finish line. We arrived early enough to venture out into the wash to get some shots of the racers going out for which appeared to be their last laps. Getting myself out in there to get some photos meant I would end up missing some of the faster teams crossing the finish line on the final lap. I chose to get more shots out in the wash and gather up results later, which the top three in their classes went like this…4500 Class winner was 4531 Shawn Rants, 2nd Place went to 4596 Jason Wilkins, and 3rd Place 4540 Michael Bedwell. In the 4600 Class 1st Place went to 4608 Matthew Peterson, 2nd Place 4696 Sean McNamara, and 3rd place with only completing 5 out of the 6 laps went to Ben Varozza. In the 4700 Class 1st Place went to 4714 Luke Johnson, followed by his father for 2nd Place 4748 Ricky Johnson, and rounding off the podium for 3rd Place was 4702 Larry Nickell. In the 4800 Class 1st Place went to 4861 Anthony Arreola, 2nd Place went to 444 Rick Waterbury, and 3rd Place 4824 Sean Leonardini. In the Pro UTV Class 1st Place went to the father son driver – co-driver combo of 83 Raul and Darian Gomez. 2nd Place finishing only 5 laps was 1920 John Duckworth, and 3rd Place finishing 4 of the 6 laps was 1958 Andrew Goman. The UTV Sportsman Class’ 1st Place went to 125 Phil Blurton, 2nd Place 1927 Ben Wilson, and 3rd Place 18 1961 Bill Hermant. As I was hiking back up to the start line to see the stragglers come in and and get ready to see the Big Boys in the 4400 Class get lined up, I got to witness one of the interesting things from my weekend! I was looking at the Falken race driver Bailey Cole coming across the desert hooked up behind the UTV of Goodall Racing pushing him the last 10 miles through the desert to the finish! Very cool to watch to say the least…great job everyone! Now for the Main event…
Thank goodness the wind had started to pick up for the main even, maybe the dust wasn’t going to be too bad!

After getting a shot of the lineup and making my rounds wishing everyone good luck, Phil and I chose to shoot the start from in the wash and then cover this race in the same manner as we just did the first race. We shot the wash until everyone was off the line and quickly loaded up and headed to Pit 1. As we arrived at Pit 1, I was able to jump out and catch the rear end of Loren Healy going by on his 2nd lap!…We just made it in time! We shot that area for what we could tell was a whole other lap and a half before we decided to head out for Pit 2.

We made it to Pit 2 without any issues this time, but now it was time to figure out where the leaders were and what lap they were on? After a full cycle of vehicles went by we figured we must have missed Loren go by before we arrived and now Wayland had come by again with still no sign of Loren? We could make out that it was Wayland out front with Paul Horschel following close behind. It wasn’t long before we saw Loren come by like a man-on-a-mission, but with all the drivers starting every 30 seconds off the line, we could make out a few possible drivers on the move! We could tell Tom Wayes who started 22nd off the line had moved up closer to the front runners as well as Brian Capprara and Randy Slawson were charging hard as well! But since it is a timed race we couldn’t be sure exactly where everyone stood in the ranks. We decided to go ahead and wait for Brian Capprara to come back through before we left for the finish line. In doing so we noticed Wayland had not come through as normal when all the sudden Loren was coming by just as the sun was setting. We hadn’t seen Tom Wayes come through for quite some time before we got word that he had hit a large rock and and went end over end to finish his day short. We also had noticed Levi Shirley hadn’t come by for a long time and wasn’t sure what had happened to him, until we later found out at the finish line that he had mechanical issues and was still out there working on it. He was finally able to get going again and get in a couple more laps before the cutoff time to better himself in the points standing. What seemed to be about 5 minutes had passed since Loren went by, we saw Paul Horschel come through with still no sight of Wayland. We finally did see Wayland come through several minutes behind Paul and now were waiting on Brian to come through before we headed out for the finish. When we saw Brian come through a few minutes later and as we were loading up, we saw Randy Slawson come through. Now we were off to the finish line to see how things were going to pan out!

After getting to the finish line we had the results that Loren Healy had taken the win with 30 some odd seconds over Paul Horschel and Wayland Campbell had rounded off the podium coming in several minutes behind Paul. With this win for Loren it secured him the West Coast Championship for the second year in a row. Congrats to Loren and his team on another incredible year! On a interesting side note, Randy Slawson with his ULTRA4 rock racing Bomber Fab chassis set the fastest time of any of the straight axles rigs.

We were also getting word that Wayland’s dad, Shannon Campbell, was down in the desert with drivetrain issues and was calling on his daughter Bailey Campbell, which was racing steady all day to help him get to the finish. Bailey reached her father and was able to pull Shannon the last 20 miles through the desert to both finish the race and better themselves in the point standings. All in all it was one heck of a race that went well into the night with a cutoff time of 12:00am. Every bit of that time was used for some teams as 33 of the 49 starters in the 4400 class finished! After going around talking to a lot of the teams that night and in the morning after the race, everyone that had raced said they really enjoyed it and some even claimed it to be the most fun they’ve had in a race before! So what seemed to be a race that no one was quite sure of how it was going to go, it sounds like we found another venue for years to come, or we can only hope anyways. ULTRA4 Racing has one more race back east in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the east coast finals. Then, The National Championship will be held in my hometown of Reno, NV in October! Enjoy some of the photos from the event and I hope to see everyone again at the Nationals!

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Axial partners with SCORE International – Official R/C Vehicles of SCORE


(Mission Viejo, CA) February 25, 2015.

Axial R/C Inc., A subsidiary of Hobbico Inc., is proud to announce Axial as the Official R/C Vehicles of the Baja 500, Baja 1000 and SCORE International.

So much focus in the R/C industry is placed on short course off road racing. It makes perfect sense, as it is easy to gather lots of people into a confined area to experience off road racing vehicles. What many people don’t know is that short course off road racing was born in the desert. What short course promoters are attempting to do is bring desert racing to the masses. What is lost in this process is the adventure. In true Axial style, we are all about chasing adventure. In this case, Axial R/C has partnered with SCORE International to support further growth of the off road racing that started it all.

The Baja 500 and Baja 1000 are two of the most recognizable off road racing events on the planet. The machines, the people and the experiences of these and all of SCORE’s events are the inspiration for many of today’s off road enthusiasts. Axial fans and consumers are driven by adventure, getting out there and experiencing the relationship of man and machine in the wild. Axial will be taking an in depth look at what drives all of these individuals to push themselves and their machines to the absolute limit to conquer Baja.

About Axial
Founded in 2005, Axial R/C, Inc. has quickly became a global brand leader of hobby grade radio controlled products as Axial is a company of enthusiasts for enthusiasts. We manufacture chassis and accessory products predominantly for the Rock Crawling and Overland Adventure segments, with design emphasis on rugged construction and scale realism. Axial is regularly involved in local and national events which allow us to keep our finger on the pulse of R/C culture, thus earning us awards year after year, including “Best Truck”, “Most Innovative”, “Best Engineered Product of the Year”, and “People’s Choice.” For more information on Axial and Axial products please visit

About SCORE International
The World’s Foremost Desert Racing Organization, SCORE International was founded in 1973 by the late motorsports innovator Mickey Thompson and continues today under the ownership and director of former SCORE Trophy Truck racing champion Roger Norman. The five-race, internationally-televised SCORE World Desert Championship features 35 Pro and six Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, UTVs, motorcycles and quads. The series is televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network with international syndication for each of the one-hour programs. The flagship event of the SCORE World Desert Championship is the iconic SCORE Baja 1000, the granddaddy of all desert races. The 2015 SCORE Baja 1000 will air as a two-hour special on the CBS Sports Network. For more information regarding SCORE International, visit