Feb 2023

King of the Hammers has become the biggest off-road race in North America, bringing nearly 1000 registered racers and 80,000 spectators to the dry lakebed of Johnson Valley, Ca. It is easily considered to be one of the most challenging races as well; from rock racing to desert racing, there is a racing event almost every single day for 12 days straight. Since the event’s inception 16 years ago, Baja Designs has been a part of many different race cars to light up the night and get those to the finish line. There is certain types of teams that come to KOH every year and leave a long-lasting memory on all of us, and that is the grassroots small racing programs. The people that have worked tirelessly all year long to get to this point don’t have massive factory support or big sponsors; they just have passion for the sport and work ethic to back it up. We had a chance to catch up with a few teams who run Baja Designs lights and see what makes their lighting package and vehicles so unique.

In the world of Ultra4, one of the most competitive classes based around grassroots racing is the Everyman Challenge; the class is a way to encourage a stock-style vehicle modified for racing. No one embodies grassroots racing better than Sherpa Motorsports. They race a 2003 Toyota 4Runner that was garage built between friends and family to test out their Sherpa Roof Rack systems in extreme off-road conditions. Sherpa Motorsports are rocking a set of LP9 Pros on the bumper, XL80s on the A-Pillar, and an XL Linkable for the roof that is a direct bolt-on for their roof rack and a set of S2 Pro in the rear as dust lights. Sherpa Motorsports have enough light to go race in Baja, coincidently they will be racing the San Felipe 250 this year. This will be their third consecutive King of the Hammers; they have yet to finish the race, but after completely tearing down the 4runner to the frame and rebuilding it better, they are confident this will be their year.

Aside from rock racing, there is desert racing courtesy of the Toyo Tires desert challenge, and in that was the introduction of Class 11 Stock Bug racing a few years ago. Tim Sletten comes from a family that is known for building some of the best Class 11 Bugs out there. We had a chance to meet up with him before he passed the keys off to Baja Class 11 Champion Alex Gonzales, who took the keys a won the Class 11 race this week. Similar is the design ethos of a Class 11 Bug; simple is king, and when you are running at twilight, there isn’t too much need for extreme lighting applications. Tim built the car to have just two Baja Designs XL 80s and an S2 Pro amber chase light. The Baja Designs XL 80 pushes out 19,000 lumens of illumination. The combination of 9,500 lumens per light and a small profile makes them a fantastic option for forward-projection lighting to minimize packaging on a vehicle.

When we see people like Dennis Stansfield, we are reminded of what hard work and passion for this motorsport are, as he is a clear example of someone giving everything he has to race King of the Hammers. Dennis first acquired a Toyota pickup when he was 19, as his first truck would be built for occasional off-road trips. Nearly a decade later and over five years to build it into an Ultra4-inspired rock crawler powered by a Chevy v8, race suspension, and nearly full tube chassis. When he had the opportunity to compete in the Ultra4 4400 rookie program, he couldn’t pass it up. A chance to compete at the highest level against King of the Hammers with legends such as the Gomez brothers and Levi Shirley.

Dennis’ goal isn’t to set out to win but a mere just solely to finish the race, which means he will be finishing in the dark. His Toyota is equipped with two Baja Designs LP9s and an amber s8 paired with a driving combo lens. The LP9 Pro utilizes nine forward-projecting LEDs to produce 12,547 Lumens, and six LEDs for Integrated Peripheral Technology (IPT) which produce 2,302 lumens combined with the forward-facing LEDs provide an incredible 200-degree spread of usable light.

King of the Hammers has become a major off-road race in North America, attracting many competitors and spectators. The event offers a variety of challenging races, from rock racing to desert racing, making it a highly competitive and exciting experience for all involved. Baja Designs has been an integral part of the race, providing racers with high-quality lighting solutions that are designed to withstand the demands of off-road racing. The Everyman Challenge and Class 11 Stock Bug racing are examples of the diversity of the event and the importance of effective lighting for the competitors. The Sherpa Motorsports’ 2003 Toyota 4Runner and Tim Sletten’s Class 11 Bug are examples of how racers have incorporated Baja Designs lights into their vehicles, providing enough illumination to navigate through the toughest terrain.