The high desert of Southern California is a harsh place. Blowing sand, craggy rock formations, and extreme temperatures both hot and cold make it rather difficult terrain. So, building a race car to traverse dusty Mojave Desert trails at more than 100 mph and then crawl up steep stone-covered hills is no small feat. In February, drivers from throughout the country brought custom “rock racers” to Johnson Valley, CA, to see if they could conquer the challenging landscape in the ULTRA4 racing series’ (ultra4racing.com) sixth annual “King of the Hammers.” The 198-mile rally race is billed as the “toughest single-day, off-road race in the world,” and judging by the fact that only 32 of the 158 racers who started finished, this just might be true.
One of the drivers is David Buchberger. His custom-built rock racer is sponsored by cutting tool manufacturer Widia (widia.com). Racing is Buchberger’s hobby. During the week, he’s vice presi-dent of Hi-Speed Corp. (hispeedcorp.com), a Widia distributor. Widia is more than a name on the side of his car. Its tooling was used to produce the custom-made parts on Buchberger’s race car, ranging from a 6061 T6 aluminum adapter that’s fitted between the transmission and the transfer case to steel trailing arm shock mounts. This year was Buchberger’s third attempt. He was sidelined this time by a broken transfer case. He quips, “The goal is to not break, and we broke.” Buchberger plans to return to the desert next year, and he hopes his luck improves.—ZP