The 2021 4WP Every Man Challenge (EMC) featured the most challenging course in the event’s nine-year history; more difficult than the main King of the Hammers race of just a few short years ago. As a result, the bottleneck was the word of the day, with traffic jams at The Notches, Outer Limits, and Jackhammer allowing the front runners to walk away from the field of 115 vehicles across three classes.
Second-generation racer Chayse Caprara got out front early and made the most of it, taking the overall win this year and the Branik Motorsports 4800 Class victory in his very first appearance in the EMC race. The nineteen-year-old is a second-generation racer who started competing at King of the Hammers in the UTV class three years ago before moving up in class in a Bomber buggy.
“Try to keep it smooth, break nothing, and go as fast as I can,” Caprara revealed when asked about his strategy for the day. “We got the lead right after pit one going out. I never assumed we were going to win because anything can happen out here.”
Caprara was chased by a pair of past EMC winners: Brad Lovell and Casey Gilbert. Four-time EMC winner Lovell finished eleven minutes behind Caprara in his trusty Ford Ranger buggy.
“Hats off to the winners, who were just a little bit faster today,” Lovell expressed at the finish line. “I really like the EMC race, because it gives us a place that we can race and be competitive in an older car like this.”
Two-time EMC winner Gilbert finished nineteen minutes behind Caprara in his Miller Motorsports Jeep. “It’s the challenge,” Gilbert explained when asked what has kept him coming back for the past eight years. “And it’s never the same, you’re always working through problems. I have a good time, you know, just trying to figure out how to overcome a situation that you get put into.”
In spite of the difficulty of the course, 115 drivers signed up in three classes: Legends (4800), Modified (4500), and Stock (4600). Even with different vehicle specifications, the Legends and Modified vehicles are closely matched in capabilities and battle each year for the overall win.
Legends vehicles must use a single shock per corner, have a front-mounted engine, and two seats. Modified vehicles are allowed two shocks per corner but must retain mechanical steering rather than the full hydraulic steering that is common in the Legends Class. Both classes compete on 37-inch DOT approved tires. The Stock Class is the most restrictive at all, allowing for minimal modifications beyond the addition of safety equipment and running through the daunting course on only 35-inch-tall DOT approved tires.
In the Yukon Gear and Axle 4500 Class, Dan Fresh added yet another trophy to his crowded mantle, besting second-place Duane Garretson by an hour and a half. His second of three races he is competing in at King of the Hammers, Fresh repeated his performance from last year in a Savvy-built Early Bronco.
A disappointing qualifying run had Fresh starting in the 71st position on race day, but he passed 66 competitors to finish fifth overall on corrected time. Arkansas’ Duane Garretson finished second in class in his Jimmy’s 4×4 Ford Bronco.
Garretson has won the Ultra4 Eastern Series title in 4500 twice in the past and has a long history in competitive rockcrawling, an advantage on this year’s particularly challenging course. Justin Foxworthy rounded out the podium in the 4500 Class, borrowing veteran racer Jimmy Jack’s Jeep that has been on the podium in the EMC race the past two years. Foxworthy had previously raced in the 4400 class in 2013 and 2014 and demonstrated that his driving skills are as sharp as ever despite the hiatus.
While Ford plans to campaign three Broncos in the 4600 Class next year, in 2021 the class is still dominated by Justin Reece, who once again was the Spidertrax Stock 4600 Class winner. Despite competing in a “well worn” 1985 Toyota pickup with a four-cylinder engine and leaf springs, Reece was able to outdrive a host of other teams with much larger engines, more modern suspensions, and bigger budgets to finish in nine hours and 37 minutes.
“I have competed in KOH twelve times and this was by far the hardest,” Reece confessed at the finish line. “I think it was just the rocks. I mean, the rocks were insane. The desert loop is what it is. A lot of the sand sections were blown out after the desert race, so the desert section was rougher than usual. But the rocks were insane. And the traffic was terrible.”
Jon Schaffer was the only other driver of the 29-car field in the Stock Class to finish within the eleven-hour time limit, crossing the line in ten hours and 35 minutes in his Savvy-built Jeep Wrangler. “We were passing people right and left and then around Race Mile 15 the rear shock just completely exploded,” Schaffer revealed at the finish line. “We had to cut it back to like a third of the speed and nurse it along. Then when we got back to the pit they threw another shock on; not really the right shock but it was better than nothing.”
New for this year was the EV Class, which had just one entry from brother and sister team Kyle and Dahlia Seggelin. Starting with Bailey Cole’s proven 4600 Class 4Runner as a platform, Seggelin added the motor and batteries from a Nissan Leaf to repower the 4Runner for the Every Man Challenge.
The electric motor of the Leaf produced 107 horsepower and 187 ft-lbs of torque, comparable to the original 22RE engine. The Leaf motor also has an output shaft, allowing it to be mated to the factory Toyota transmission.
The team swapped battery packs in Remote Pit 1 and completed the 90-mile desert loop at the EMC race, excited about the proof-of-concept and possibilities in the future. When asked what advice he had for other racers aspiring to compete in the EV Class he said “Go for it! Search the Internet, get in touch with me, get in touch with anybody else. People in electric car forums are awesome folks. It’s not as hard as you think. It’s nuts and bolts make it happen.”
The punishing 121-mile course consisted of whooped out roads and high-speed lakebeds on the first lap, and some of the hardest rockcrawling canyons in the world on the second lap, with only 37 out of the 115 vehicles that took the green flag crossing the finish line within the eleven-hour time limit.
Photo’s Courtesy Of Ultra 4 Racing