AEM Sponsored Ultra4 Racing Team Takes on King of the Hammers and Finishes in 5th

AEM Intakes sponsored Jimmy’s 4x4 Ultra4 2015 King of the Hammers team
Seen here from left to right is the AEM Intakes sponsored Jimmy’s 4x4 Ultra4 2015 King of the Hammers team made up of co-pilot Jason Henne, Travis Brake, and Ultra4 driver Derek West (Sightline Images/Bill Bailey photo)
Each February since 2007 thousands upon thousands of off-road, Jeep, 4x4, and ATV enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to Means Dry Lake in the Johnson Valley OHV area near Landers, California for one of the largest off-road events in the United States. This special event combines the thrills of high-speed desert racing with extreme rock crawling and due to the many trails with “hammer” in the name; this event has earned the title King of the Hammers (KOH). The King of the Hammers has grown from the original 2007 race of 13 invitation only competitors to a weeklong festival of everything off-road. The expanded race schedule includes hundreds of competitors across several classes such as the KliM King of the Motos, KOH Polaris UTV race, the SmittyBilt Every Man Challenge, and of course the highly anticipated King of the Hammers Ultra4 4400 unlimited race.
The 1st lap of the 2015 King of the Hammers course was a lot of open desert with speeds over 90 MPH
The 1st lap of the 2015 King of the Hammers course was a lot of open desert with speeds over 90 MPH and the Jimmy’s 4x4 team of Derek and Jason was able to maintain their 4th place position (Sightline Images/Bill Bailey photo)


Derek West and his navigator Jason Henne were among the 127 competitors who started the King of the Hammers Ultra4 4400 race on February 6th, 2015. The duo qualified fourth earlier in the week which is an impressive feat considering the new Jimmy’s 4x4 car was built from the chassis up in less than six weeks. With only an hour of run time on the car, Derek and Jason were excited to be starting the big race on the second row. At 8:00 am Friday morning the first two cars left the starting line with Derek West and his navigator leaving thirty seconds later.

King of the Hammers is a race of attrition with mechanical failures being the number one cause of a DNF
The King of the Hammers is a race of attrition with mechanical failures being the number one cause of a DNF and the Jimmy’s 4x4 team of Derek West and Jason Henne was not immune (Sightline Images/Bill Bailey photo)
The first lap of the 2015 King of the Hammers course consisted of mostly open desert sections with speeds exceeding 90 MPH in some areas. At the completion of the first lap Derek and Jason brought the Jimmy’s 4x4 number 20 car into the pits and were able to maintain their fourth place position. It was after the first lap while driving across one of the flat dry-lake sections that Derek and Jason encountered their first of several mechanical issues. The King of the Hammers is a race of attrition with mechanical failures being the number one cause of the dreaded “Did Not Finish” or DNF on the results board.

Derek West and Jason Henne encountered several problems during the 2015 King of the Hammers race, however, their AEM Dryflow synthetic air filter and pre-filter wrap worked flawlessly (Sightline Images/Bill Bailey photo)
Derek West and Jason Henne encountered several problems during the 2015 King of the Hammers race, however, their AEM Dryflow synthetic air filter and pre-filter wrap worked flawlessly (Sightline Images/Bill Bailey photo)
Derek pulled off the course before heading up the trail known as “Aftershock” and radioed into the pits to talk with his engine builder. The new Sho-Me Speed built supercharged Chevy LS3 engine was experiencing a drop in oil pressure, and switching connections with the fuel pressure gauge indicated it was a real problem, not a malfunctioning gauge. It seemed the Jimmy’s 4x4 team had bypassed the oil cooler for fear of contamination, and the hot oil was thinning out causing the pressure drop. The team decided it was best to limp the Jimmy’s 4x4 number 20 car back to the pits and replace the oil with a heavier weight to resist thinning. This helped and Derek West was able to push on through the rock sections. The Jimmy’s 4x4 team later found some straight 60 weight racing oil and once again the team changed the oil. This time the oil pressure problem was cured and Derek was able to focus on racing and regaining his spot near the front.

Derek and co-pilot Jason stopped a few more times during the race. They developed a power steering leak, the hood needed to be fixed, and there were other issues such as loose nuts typical of this kind of racing. When the dust settled the Jimmy’s 4x4 team of Derek West and Jason Henne crossed the finished line in just under 11 hours, which was good enough for a fifth place finish. The King of the Hammers is an endurance event that puts both man and machine to the test. Simply finishing the King of the Hammers is a major accomplishment in itself. Of the 127 teams that left the starting line, a mere 17 cars crossed the finish line in time. The 2015 King of the Hammers was Derek West’s 7th KOH and he has finished in the top five four different times.

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