Though the pandemic has caused some manufacturing delays, the Ford Bronco has already started hitting the dirt. Not just for testing, but actively competing. However, we’re not talking just about the Baja-racing Bronco R. This year’s King of the Hammers race saw some new entrants in the form of three Ford Bronco 4400s. And the SUVs did not disappoint.
How Ford prepared the Bronco for King of the Hammers
Road & Track describes King of the Hammers as “[t]he gnarliest racing there is.” And that’s not exactly hyperbole. Combine off-road vehicles that look like Mad Max extras and terrain that’s equal parts Mount Doom and Paris-Dakar, and you’ve got King of the Hammers.
Set in California’s Mojave Desert, the event lasts for several days, though the titular race is a one-day affair, MotorTrend reports. Or, to quote Autoweek, “the toughest one-day race in the world.” Naturally, preparing the Ford Bronco for such an event required careful planning and extensive modifications, The Drive reports.
The three Ford Bronco 4400 racers entered in the 2021 race are part of the ‘4400 Ultra4 Unlimited Class.’ As the name suggests, there are no restrictions on tire or engine size or the kind of chassis. Outside of safety requirements like roll cages, the only ‘real’ necessities are 4WD with low range and enough supplies to “survive unassisted for 24 hours,” R&T reports.
As such, the Ford Bronco 4400 only superficially resembles the road-going SUV, Motor1 reports. The SUVs have custom tubular frame chassis and 4WD systems. However, the latter is at least based on the standard Bronco’s system, Roadshow reports. The long-travel shocks and off-road engines, though, are definitely not stock.
Ford hasn’t released official horsepower figures for the Bronco 4400. The automaker merely says they have “high-power engines.” But we do know that these racers feature the first use of FIA-certified Recaro off-road-racing seats.
Did the Ford Bronco 4400 win the 2020 King of the Hammers race?
Each of the Ford Bronco 4400 racers had a skilled driver behind the wheel, R&T reports. Vaughn Gittin, Jr., the reigning Formula Drift champion, drove one. The other two were driven by Jason Scherer and Loren Healey, both former King of the Hammers winners, Autoweek reports. Scherer’s won it three times and Healey’s won it twice.
Unfortunately, none of the Bronco drivers could quite eke out a win at this year’s race on February 6th, Autoweek reports. Although Gittin, Jr. placed fifth, first place went to Randy Slawson, who was the co-driver to the very first King of the Hammers winner, JR Reynolds. The 2021 race marks his third win.
Though to be fair, merely finishing the King of the Hammers race is considered an impressive accomplishment, Roadshow reports. This year, only 37 of the 84 entrants completed the race. And all three Ford Bronco 4400 racers finished, with Scherer coming in ninth and Healey in 13th. Plus, while there wasn’t a Bronco on the podium, Slawson did win a free Ford Bronco for coming in first.
Will it return next year?
The good news for Ford fans is that you’ll likely see the Bronco 4400 again. In a later press release, Ford affirmed that it plans to continue competing in the Ultra4 4400 Class. So, just like the Bronco R had another chance at Baja, the Bronco 4400 is going to tackle the King of the Hammers again.
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