For the year over, Ultra4 Racing has been taking on some of the most rugged terrain that the good ole US of A has to offer holding races all over the country, of both short and long-course styles. But recently, the season ended for this special genre of racing in Reno, Nevada at the Ultra4 National Championship. Lift’d Trucks was fortunate enough to be on hand during this spectacular season wrap-up to take in all the radical sights and sounds of the event.
Photos & Words: Lindsey Fisher
What some may not realize is that Ultra4 Racing is much more than the annual King of the Hammers race held in the California desert, which the race organization is most well known for. Year round, Ultra4 hosts races at various off-road parks all around the country, pitting drivers and their high-performance off-road rigs against some of the trickiest short-courses and most grueling long-courses in the vastly unpaved world. The race season culminates in Reno, Nevada each year for the final race of the year and the crowning of the U.S. Ultra4 National Champion.
This year, 10 UTV teams, eight 4600-Class teams, 11 4500-Class teams, three Spec Class teams, 20 4800-Class teams, and 54 4400-Class teams participated in the weekend-long National Championship event. Starting with track move-in the opening event was followed by practice sessions on and shortly after qualifying for all classes. On Saturday, prelims were run in the morning, determining the lineup for finals that afternoon. Even though there were 54 drivers in the 4400-Class vying for positions in the final race, just 25 advanced on to take part in the official National Championship race. While it takes hours for drivers and their teams to finish a race like King of the Hammers, which runs over 200 miles in one day, each class finished their preliminary and final races at the Nationals in under 30 minutes each, proving just how different of a race this was compared to the big race in January, as well as how versatile each competing vehicle truly is.
The finals started right before lunch with the UTV Sportsman and Pro classes taking to the course. Though there was a good amount of carnage resulting from the much smaller performance machines taking on some of the same obstacles as the big guns, one driver in particular prevailed, completing eight laps in the time permitted. This was Phillip Cagliero, a Sportsman competitor who completed his eight laps in 12 minutes and 2.38 seconds, followed by Andrew Gorman (first in the UTV Pro Class) with seven laps completed in 12 minutes and 4.16 seconds and Buzz Bronsema (second in Pro Class; third overall) with five laps completed in 12 minutes and 0.14 seconds.
After lunch, the Stock (4600) and Mod (4500) classes raced together, followed by the Spec (4700) and Legends (4800) classes. Matthew Peterson led the field in the Stock Class with nine laps completed in 14 minutes and 14.48 seconds, followed by Brian Behrend with seven laps completed in 14 minutes and 17.23 seconds, and Justin Reece with six laps completed in 14 minutes and 19.24 seconds, while Justin Hall took the win for the Mod Class with five laps completed in 15 minutes and 4.35 seconds, followed by Shawn Rants with five laps completed in 15 minutes and 5.10 seconds, and Steve Lopez with four laps completed in 15 minutes and 1.34 seconds. For the Spec Class, Ricky Johnson took the checkered flag with five laps completed in 15 minutes and 4.55 seconds, followed by Larry Nickell and Bailey Cole, both with four laps (15 minutes and 3.04 seconds vs. 15 minutes and 3.20 seconds), who battled it out until the very end. For Legends, Anthony Arreola took first-place honors with five laps completed in 15 minutes and 2.42611 seconds, followed by Dave Schneider with five laps completed in 15 minutes and 2.42745 seconds and Mike Amaral with five laps completed in 15 minutes and 3.17 seconds.
The final race of the day was run by the Unlimited (4400) Class, consisting of a number of podium finishers from previous King of the Hammers races. The competition was hot and the fight for the checkered flag wasn’t over until the very end of the race with Loren Healy and his newly-built Red Dragon race car throwing down the fastest time of all, 8-lap finished in 16 minutes and 31.48 seconds. Following closely behind Healy was Jason Scherer with a time of 16 minutes and 31.54 seconds, followed by Erik Miller with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 32.01 seconds, Clay Gilstap with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 32.02 seconds, Levi Shirley with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 32.18 seconds, Shannon Campbell with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 32.41 seconds, Derek West with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 32.44 seconds, JP Gomez with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 32.47 seconds, Wayland Campbell with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 32.49 seconds and Andrew McLaughlin with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 33.53 seconds.
Following the finial race, the top three 4400-Class finishers were honored in a traditional awards ceremony. Afterward, racers, their family members and fans alike traveled into town to the Atlantis Hotel and Casino for the annual Awards Banquet, where top points finishers from the East and West Ultra4 divisions, as well as the top 10 finishers in overall points (acquired throughout the year) in each class were honored. Taking the biggest trophy of the night home was Levi Shirley, who was the first-place overall points finisher for the year, adding the 2015 U.S. Ultra4 Champion title to his growing list of off-road racing awards, including the 2014 European Ultra4 Champion title. The only thing Levi needs to complete his trophy case now is the King of the Hammers crown and scepter, which he will be competing for against the likes of KOH champions Shannon Campbell, Loren Healy, Erik Miller, Randy Slawson, and Jason Scherer, as well as several other notable Ultra4 racers this February. Stay tuned for full coverage of the event!