Ellstrom Racing’s debut at Ultra4 Racing’s “King of the Hammers” off-road event in Johnson Valley, California, the first week of February, showed tremendous promise for the team and 18 year old driver Sven Ellstrom before a breakdown took the team out of the race.
The event is described as the ultimate desert race and the toughest one day off-road race on the planet. Racers must be skilled at handling the vehicle at speeds approaching 100 mph in the open desert portion of the course as well as manipulating and winching their way through and over rough terrain and rock obstacles at elevations ranging from 2-4000 feet. The event takes its name from the portion of the 116 mile race course made up of hills and rocks known to rock crawlers as the “Hammers.”
Erick Ellstrom was very impressed with the event and the team’s performance, saying, “This event was really impressive. It was huge and very well organized. We were treated great as first timers and got lots of help from the organizers and the other teams. We are hoping some of our new friends will come and see what we do with our boat in the H1 Unlimited Series.”
After starting 58th, Sven and navigator Matt Rutz passed about a dozen cars before a clutch belt went out in the desert before the first pit stop for fuel. The driver and navigator installed the spare and resumed the race, reeling in the field of veterans ahead of them. At the fuel stop, they had passed about 20 teams.
Erick Ellstrom added, “At Pit 2 they were running about 20th. They got through the rock obstacles in great shape and had moved up to 10th place when a tie rod bolt broke. Then the right front axle broke and ended the race before Pit 2B. When the vehicle ran it looked great. Sven and Matt were the youngest guys in the race and they did an outstanding job.”
Sven Ellstrom said his experience in the rocks of Eastern Washington in the family’s Jeep prepared him well for the rock crawling and added, “We had to get used to the high speed desert portions with the bumps and moguls and did a lot of pre-running out there.”
The team’s modified Polaris RZR 1000 performed well and was one of the fastest cars in the race, in the desert as well as in the infamous “Wrecking Ball” and “Chocolate Thunder” portions of the treacherous rock obstacles. The young driver and navigator handled those areas with relative ease, although they did have to set the car back on its wheels once when it landed on its left side after launching off a rock.
Erick Ellstrom added, “We really owe a lot to Mark Holz at Holz Racing Products in Lynden. Without his help we probably would not have made it here and we certainly would not have had such a competitive vehicle”
“We really didn’t know what to expect when we came here,” said the driver. “We had the chance to look at a lot of the other rigs and learn a lot about their setups. That really helped. We had a great time in Hammertown and on the race course. The course is as brutal as advertised and we were very happy with the way the car we built handled it.”
After an impressive start to his off-road racing career, Sven Ellstrom concluded, “We really learned a lot this week. We’ll be back next year with more experience and a strong fast car.”
Look for the 16 in the video below, including Sven and Matt putting the car back on its wheels.