In mid 2013, I approached Matt Dunk about purchasing an unfinished project car of his, but he convinced me to build a fresh one. We began working together, collecting parts and was just about ready to start, when –– KOH 2014 aired on the live feed. After watching less than an hour, it was decided, I had to be there in next year’s race. As soon as Matt jumped off the plane back from America, I hit him with the decision, and the Thorpe Motorsport KOH 2015 campaign began.
Once enough components were purchased, Matt laid down the first stick of chromoly and did not stop. The parts continued rolling in, the nights became later and the import paperwork became thicker. Soon friends started to contribute more and more of their own time. Everyone pushed hard, right up until the night before the car was dropped at the Port of Brisbane for its trip half way around the world!
Before we knew it, the team was on a plane making the 14 hour flight to Los Angeles, California. Nerves were high for the next couple of days while we waited for the car to get released from the “dysfunctional” Long Beach Port. Thankfully, we received the car with just enough time to tear it down, get it finished and head out to Hammertown. Even before we set up camp, we hurried off to “tech” inspection to have the car “scrutineered.” To our relief and pleasant surprise, it passed with flying colors.
The next day, Saturday before the big race, we had the first real drive of the car. We spent the day shock tuning with Wayne from Alltech Motorsports, who managed to get the car skimming across the whoops. Everything was feeling good; so for the next couple of days we decided to do some pre-running. Fighting typical new car “teething” problems, we managed to run all bar 10 miles of the course. Unfortunately, these “teething” issues canceled out any chance of pre-running the qualifying course.
The qualifying course was a short sprint stage just on the edge of Hammertown. It consisted of a handful of small climbs, descents, and a fast sandy straight. Without knowing the track and how the car was going to respond, we did not have any expectations going into our run. Amazingly, we managed to complete a clean uneventful lap, which landed us mid pack for the main race. The next 36 hours were spent finalizing pit strategies and going over the car. Finally, we were ready!
After over a year’s worth of planning and work, race day had come. It felt good to have Brett (my father and co-driver) next to me. The “vibe” was high and everyone was excited. The dream was coming true! Within no time we were lined up at the start line, waiting for that green flag to drop. Suddenly we were off, racing the largest single day, off-road race, in the world, King of the Hammers. Our strategy was to pace ourselves and let other cars drop off in the first desert section. Everything was going to plan, the car was feeling great and we were about to climb the first rock section, called Crowbar –– when we lost front wheel drive. Keeping calm, Brett and I jumped out and soon realized the front intermediate shaft had failed. Thankfully, we had a complete spare, so we got to work, and with other cars passing us by, we swapped it out. Sadly however, after nearly completing the painful change over, we realized something wasn’t right. The spare driveline didn’t line up; and because we were so far away from the closest pit, our day was cut far too short.
Unfortunately, the Thorpe Motorsport 2015 King of the Hammers campaign did not end up with the result we were aiming for, but it was an experience everyone involved will remember for a lifetime. It was a tough road just making it to California, and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing support of my family, friends and sponsors. We now have 12 months to race the new Ultra4 back in Australia, get plenty of seat time, make minor improvements and hopefully come back to take on KOH 2016!
Written By Mitch Thorpe