Belly clearance and battery juice were among the issues Rubicon Express driver Jason Scherer faced during the Griffin King of the Hammers race.
Scherer lives at the base of the Fordyce Creek Trail, a beasty rock crawling trail west of the Rubicon Trail. He eats, sleeps, and breathes off-roading, and has earned an enviable reputation among desert racers. That reputation and his 2009 win at Hammertown were hard to forget as Scherer cruised in with the best qualifying time before the big 2013 race on Feb. 8.
The Griffin King of the Hammers race pits Ultra 4 vehicles side-by-side and two at a time through 165-mile of desert in Johnson Valley, Calif. Racers must make it to the finish line in less than 14 hours.
Starting on the pole position in car 76, Scherer opted to run the infamous Back Door for the first stretch of the race. The gamble paid off and Scherer made it up the intimidating rocks on his first attempt. The next stretch of the course proved more challenging.
"Everybody had some bad luck in 2013," Scherer said. "My alternator went bad and I had to hike about two miles out of Outer Limits to the pit."
Scherer grabbed an alternator, two batteries, a power steering pump, and fluid for it and the tools needed to fix everything. To add insult to injury, after swapping the batteries around, he discovered the fresh ones were dead.
"They'd been sitting out there for six months," he said. "That's when the goal changed."
Another driver, Bryan Shirley, saw Scherer predicament and offered jumper cables and driver Kevin Yoder jumpstarted the car.
"I owe a lot to those guys," Scherer said.
The string of tough luck, however, was still running the course with Scherer. Steering issues forced Scherer to do every rock section with no power steering. Since the course was two laps, he did it twice.
Not ideal, but the goal was to get across the finish line, and Scherer did. His car 76 finished a respectable 21st with a time of 13:33:07.
"This team is the never say die crew and this year was no exception," he said.
For the last four years, Scherer finished in the top 20, but considering the field agreed that this was the hardest King of the Hammers ever, Scherer's team proved to be remarkably resilient.
Built to Crawl
Scherer drove a 100 percent handcrafted and highly modified car and the entire build took nearly two months.
"When I won in 2009 we started off with a car built for rock crawling then converted it," he said.
His new car sports a fire breathing LS7 motor with 600-plus horsepower. A Reid Racing Turbo 400 built by Maximum Transmissions takes care of putting all that power to the ground.
"It was a pretty complex build and the front end alone took three weeks," said Scherer. "A friend of mine and I were welding around the clock."
The car's independent front suspension has 18 inches of travel with components by Spidertrax and solid works by Wild West Off Road. The Atlas 2 Speed, 2.0-ratio transfer case allows the car to stay in low range between the trails.
"At first, we didn't have enough ground clearance," Scherer said.
To remedy the problem, Scherer cut the front end off during the off-season and moved the belly 8 inches to gain more clearance beneath the car.
"Now, it's as good a rock crawler as anything."
Check out footage of Scherer at the Hammer race at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddC6BwVzeZs or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYsUUx2dEFE
- David Beran is a Copywriter at 4 Wheel Parts.