This red and yellow RZR may look familiar as we featured it last year, but it just competed at the most challenging off-road race in the United States, King of the Hammers. Adam Fitza and his 2020 Polaris Turbo S RZR, which once saw life as a desert race vehicle before being converted to race in the rocks, headed out to Johnson Valley, California to take on the one-of-a-kind race.
King of the Hammers is a bucket list race for many off-roaders and has been for Fitza. There is just something about the Johnson Valley, California lakebed that attracts racers.
“King of the Hammers is all about the challenge,” Fitza said. “It’s a little bit of desert and a lot of rocks. King of the Hammers lives up to its name and is hands down the toughest race.”
As part of the 2023 event, King of the Hammers introduced a Rookie Program to help first-time participants prepare for the race.
“The King of the Hammers Rookie Program was great,” Fitza said. “Racing in the desert over the last ten years doesn’t even prepare you for a race like this. King of the Hammers is the wild west. So much information is needed to compete, and having veteran knowledge through the program is very beneficial.”
The course that Dave Cole designed this year set out to test the entire field participating. With a desert lap and a rock lap, the race would test Fitza’s newly built RZR, but in the end, taking off the starting line at King of the Hammers is an accomplishment.
“It was a long week,” Fitza said. “I did some prerunning and got comfortable in the rocks. I’m not a rock guy by any means, but I felt confident with the vehicle for qualifying. The green flag dropped, and we worked our way up Chocolate Thunder to Pivot Rock.”
“My left rear hit a big rock which stopped forward momentum and resulted in some broken driveline parts. Luckily we could be winched out, got the RZR back to camp, and went to work to repair it for race day.”
Running to Pomona, California, to JE Reel to get the driveline parts fixed, the team scattered to find everything they needed to fix the RZR. Heading to friends’ camps on the lakebed, they managed to get everything needed to get the RZR ready for race day.
“We lined up early Thursday morning, ready to race,” Fitza said. “I lined up in 76th position due to a bad qualifying run. The green flag dropped, and to the desert, we went.”
“The car was fast, and we saw over 85 mph in the desert and were able to make many clean passes. We stopped at Remote Pit 1 for fuel, and off we went again, making more passes until we arrived at Turkey Claw. The front diff let go, and it ended our day, but it is part of racing, especially King of the Hammers, as it is a punishing event.”
Having to end the race any distance short of the finish line is heartbreaking, but it drives teams to rebuild and race again.
“There are so many people and partners that got us to King of the Hammers, and I couldn’t do it without them,” Fitza said. “First of all, I would like to thank my wife, Kelsey, for putting up with months of build and prep, not to mention two weeks on the lake bed. To all my friends and family who supported this journey and came to the lake bed to help in the pits, it was great to enjoy the experience with everyone.”
“I would like to thank all the brands who back this program. Motul, OTSFF, Polaris, Dirty Life Wheels, FastR, Area BFE, Rigid Industries, Zbroz Racing, MBRP Exhaust, Yokohama Tires, HP Tuners, OMP Racing, Warn Industries, Factor 55, Neapco Drivelines, JE Reel, KWT Prefilters, ZRP, Hyperco Coils, Dixxon Flannel, Super ATV, and Boogaloo Racing.”
Overall, Fitza and his team had a great time on the lakebed at this year’s King of the Hammers and will be back bigger, better, and stronger next year.