Thousands of gear heads turn out for King of the Hammers off-road race

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Thousands of gear heads turn out for King of the Hammers off-road race

Organizers of the King of the Hammers off-road race and festival in Joshua Tree National Park have pushed forward with the event despite concerns a

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Organizers of the King of the Hammers off-road race and festival in Joshua Tree National Park have pushed forward with the event despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The nine-day event in Southern California’s Johnson Valley is set to conclude on Saturday, and organizers say they took careful precautions to hold the race safely.

The race normally draws a crowd of about 60,000 people, who set up camp in the temporary ‘Hammertown’ settlement. Exact estimates were not available for this year’s attendance, and many participants said the crowd appeared to be noticeably smaller than usual.

Organizers have required a negative COVID-19 test from all who attend, and mask wearing is mandatory. The organizers also promoted an option to view the popular race from home via a livestream.

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The nine-day King of the Hammers race in Southern California's Johnson Valley is set to conclude on Saturday, and organizers say they took careful precautions to hold the race safely

The nine-day King of the Hammers race in Southern California’s Johnson Valley is set to conclude on Saturday, and organizers say they took careful precautions to hold the race safely

The race normally draws a crowd of about 60,000 people, but this year's crowd is thought to be smaller

The race normally draws a crowd of about 60,000 people, but this year’s crowd is thought to be smaller

Organizers have required a negative COVID-19 test from all who attend, and mask wearing is mandatory. The organizers also promoted an option to view the popular race from home via a livestream

Organizers have required a negative COVID-19 test from all who attend, and mask wearing is mandatory. The organizers also promoted an option to view the popular race from home via a livestream

As well, all spectators are having their temperature checked, and rapid tests are available on-site for $30

As well, all spectators are having their temperature checked, and rapid tests are available on-site for $30

As well, all spectators are having their temperature checked, and rapid tests are available on-site for $30, organizers told SFGate. 

As Southern California emerges from its deadliest phase in the pandemic, the decision to move forward with the festival drew concern from some quarters.

While many local residents are glad for the economic boost that the event brings to the area, some are fearful that the large crowds could spread the virus.

‘I do not know how this happened,’ Becky Boyer-Whitehurst, a retired school teacher who is ‘holing up’ in her house in the area, told SFGate. 

‘Roads are packed. Grocery stores are packed. Everything is packed,’ she said. 

As Southern California emerges from its deadliest phase in the pandemic, the decision to move forward with the festival drew concern from some quarters

As Southern California emerges from its deadliest phase in the pandemic, the decision to move forward with the festival drew concern from some quarters

As Southern California emerges from its deadliest phase in the pandemic, the decision to move forward with the festival drew concern from some quarters

While many local residents are glad for the economic boost that the event brings to the area, some are fearful that the large crowds could spread the virus

While many local residents are glad for the economic boost that the event brings to the area, some are fearful that the large crowds could spread the virus

However, the event was given explicit approval from the San Bernardino County Public Health Department and the BLM

However, the event was given explicit approval from the San Bernardino County Public Health Department and the BLM

The vehicles used in King of the Hammers are known as Ultra 4 vehicles, and each one is custom fabricated by the race teams that participate.

The vehicles used in King of the Hammers are known as Ultra 4 vehicles, and each one is custom fabricated by the race teams that participate. 

However, the event was given explicit approval from the San Bernardino County Public Health Department. 

In December, San Bernardino County Public Health Director Corwin Porter issued a statement saying, ‘the COVID-19 response plan that King of the Hammers and MedNext staff devised is comprehensive, thoughtful, and puts into place mitigation measures that address my concerns from a healthcare perspective.’ 

The federal Bureau of Land Management, which owns the land the race is held on, also signed off on the event. 

The race, which is beloved in the off-road community, began in 2007 with a test-run that had no spectators. The 13 participants in the original race, known as the OG13, are automatically invited back every year, as are each year’s winners.

The 165-mile main course contains both flat desert stretches where speeds exceed 100mph, as well as steep rock-climbing segments that require gear ratios in excess of 100 to one

The 165-mile main course contains both flat desert stretches where speeds exceed 100mph, as well as steep rock-climbing segments that require gear ratios in excess of 100 to one

Originally a single race, the event has expanded into a nine-day festival with multiple races

Originally a single race, the event has expanded into a nine-day festival with multiple races

The race, which is beloved in the off-road community, began in 2007 with a test-run that had no spectators

The race, which is beloved in the off-road community, began in 2007 with a test-run that had no spectators

Originally a single race, the event has expanded into a nine-day festival with multiple races. 

The 165-mile main course contains both flat desert stretches where speeds exceed 100mph, as well as steep rock-climbing segments that require gear ratios in excess of 100 to one.

The vehicles used in King of the Hammers are known as Ultra 4 vehicles, and each one is custom fabricated by the race teams that participate.

Photos and video from this year’s event show the enthusiastic fans gathering to watch the races during the day and the fireworks at night. 

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