Battle Of KOH For Derek West

This year would be Derek’s 11th year racing King of the Hammers! And to start the new decade off right Derek debuted a new 4400 Jimmy’s (48 P pro chassis) race car at the 2020 King of the Hammers.

The New Car build: Started Dec 6th when Derek and teammate Mick Henson made the trip out to Cortez, CO to Jimmy’s 4×4 to get to work. The main chassis tubes were together and half of the welding had been done, so Jimmy’s crew, Derek and Mick spent the next week working long hours on getting all the new components mounted on the new car (and maybe one-day snowboarding!). The guys got back home on Dec 15th and Derek got busy making lists of all the parts and pieces that would be needed to assemble this new off-road race car. This part is a very time-consuming aspect of race car building! And it seems nothing is open or doing business in between Christmas or New Years, or the week after. About the 6th of January, the parts were beginning to roll in, so Derek, along with an amazing group of friends and family came together to work night and day to complete the race car. It was finally done about midnight Friday, Jan 31st! The team loaded up and were on the road from Springfield, MO to Johnson Valley, California! (A short 24-hour drive)  

Pre-Running & Qualifying:  The team arrived Sunday morning about daybreak and quickly began to unload and set up camp for the next week.  By 11:00 am they were out in the desert testing out the new car. Testing was going well, but they found some “bugs” that are pretty common with a new build. They got the issues fixed and were quickly back at testing. Monday was another day of testing, photoshoots, and technical inspection.  Tuesday was a qualifying day and Derek was set to qualify in the “Power Hour” just after 4:00 pm. It was also the day that Derek knew he needed to get some miles in on the new car so they went ahead and ran the first lap of the race, about an 80-mile loop. Shortly after Derek ran qualifying with placing him in the 27th starting spot out of 109 competitors in the 4400 class.  This was further back than what the team would have liked, but the placement was a perfect starting spot. Race Day:   Derek with co-driver, David Fox had a smooth first lap with no issues and came into the main pit around the 15th spot.  Out on lap, two things were going good until Derek hit a large rock and damaged a wheel and caliper.  “I was coming down a sandhill pretty hot and as I came around a hill there was a pinch spot that had the course going between two large rocks, I just couldn’t scrub off enough speed to get the car between them as I was drifting out pretty hard in the sand”, said Derek.  The team had to stop shortly after to put on a spare wheel/tire, clamp off the front brake line before continuing on. Derek was anxious about the stop and pressed on through the first of the rocky trails, gaining some positions through the remaining field of competitors. About halfway through the second lap the brake pedal was soft again and the team pulled over to find a loose-fitting- likely caused by a rock kicking up and hitting the caliper/fitting.  A quick tighten/bleed and they were on their way again and were making quick work of the rock trails. As the #20 team was approaching pit 2 the car began to sputter and cut out, within about a half-mile of the pit the car was at a stop and it was determined that it was out of fuel. After hiking to pit 2 and back with 5 gallons of fuel the car was moving again and on its way to completely refuel in the pits. The car took much less fuel than it should have meaning there was some sort of issue with the pick-up system in the tank.  Nevertheless, the team pressed on with a new plan to take fuel at main pit and pit 2, after completing lap 2. They finally headed out for the 3rd and final lap, however about 15 miles in problems struck again- the alternator was not charging.  David radioed into the main pit to have a spare alternator and a few needed tools to make the swap.  Thanks to another fellow racer the alternator and tools were delivered (now we know we need an 8mm allen on board).  The alternator was taken off, but upon removal, it was discovered that the wire connecting the alternator to the battery had a broken connector.  Derek and David fixed the wire issue and jump-started the car, they were on their way again! The guys made it through the rocky trails with a quick stop in pit 2 for a jug of fuel and at it again. The final blow came just after clearing the Chocolate Thunder obstacle… they lost an idler pulley that could not keep the engine serpentine belt on.  It was too far to hike to a pit or get another racer to bring us a part so we were forced to call the race. It was a good debut for the new race car, but the new bugs were just too much for KOH this year.